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Other Books by Margaret Bourke-White 



HALFWAY TO FREEDOM, A Report on the New India (1949) 

"DEAR FATHERLAND, REST QUIETLY," A Report on the 

Collapse of Hitler's "Thousand Years" (1946) 

"PURPLE HEART VALLEY/' A Combat Chronicle of 

the War in Italy ( 1944) 

SHOOTING THE RUSSIAN WAR (1942) 

EYES ON RUSSIA (1931) 

With Erskine Cald'well 

SAY, Is THIS THE U.S.A.? (1941) 

NORTH OF THE DANUBE (1939) 

You HAVE SEEN THEIR FACES (1937) 

With Father John LaFarge, SJ. 

A REPORT ON THE AMERICAN JESUITS (1956) 



PORTRAIT 
OF MYSELF 



MARGARET 

BOURKE 

WHITE 



SIMON AND SCHUSTER NEW YORK 1963 



ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 

INCLUDING THE RIGHT OF REPRODUCTION 

IN WHOLE OR IN PART IN ANY FORM 

COPYRIGHT 1963 BY MARGARET BOURKE- WHITE 

PUBLISHED BY SIMON AND SCHUSTER, INC. 

ROCKEFELLER CENTER, 630 FIFTH AVENUE 

NEW YORK 2O, N.Y. 



First Printing 



Those photographs not specifically credited are courtesy 
of Life Magazine with the exception of those appearing on 
pages 67, J4 9 75, 91, 98, 108 and 109, courtesy of Fortune. 
Copyright 1929, 1930, 1932, 1934, 1936, 1937, 1941, 
1942, 1943, 1944, 194$, 1946, 2947, 1950, 1952 and 19^9, 
Time, Inc. 

The captions which appear on pages 127 and 13$ were 
first published in You Have Seen Their Faces, copyright 
1937 by Erskine Caldwell and Margaret Bourke-White. 



LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOG CARD NUMBER: 63-11141 
MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 
PRINTED BY MAHONY & ROESE, INC., NEW YORK 
BOUND BY AMERICAN BOOK-STRATFORD PRESS, INC., NEW YORK 



TO MY MOTHER AND FATHER 



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 

I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the many- 
people at Time, Life and Fortune who have helped me; to the 
unsung heroes and heroines in the Life photo-lab for their technical 
assistance; to Alfred Eisenstaedt for his portrait of me taken for the 
jacket of this book, for the photographic record he kept during the 
rime of my illness, and especially for his constant encouragement; 
to Edward Stanley for his thoughtful suggestions over the years; to 
Betty Hannifin who gave generously of her time and talents; to my 
two secretaries, Anne Mills and Travis Rogers, for their understand- 
ing and expert help; and most of all to the editors of Life, first for 
sending me on many of these assignments and secondly for their 
graciousness in allowing me to use the photographs in this book. 
There are many others in Asia and Europe as well as American to 
whom I am also indebted. They are too many to be publicly 
acknowledged, but I know they will understand my gratitude. 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER i . My Invitation into the World 

CHAPTER 2. A Broken Ring and a Cracked Lens 

CHAPTER 3 . A Borrowed Camera and a Bag of Peanuts 

CHAPTER 4. The Enchanted Steel Mills 

CHAPTER 5. Fortune Beckons 

CHAPTER 6. Skyscrapers and Advertising 

CHAPTER 7 . The Country of the Day After Tomorrow 

CHAPTER 8. Mother 

CHAPTER 9. Assignment to the Dust Bowl 

CHAPTER i o. The Rocky Road to Tobacco Road 

CHAPTER 1 1 . "You Have Seen Their Faces" 

CHAPTER 12. Life Begins 

CHAPTER 13. His Excellency and the Butterflies 

CHAPTER 14. Love in Reno 

CHAPTER 15. I Photograph Stalin 

CHAPTER 1 6. The Lecture Circuit 

CHAPTER 17. The Flying Flitgun 

CHAPTER 1 8. War at Sea 

CHAPTER 19. In the Garden of Allah 

CHAPTER 20. I Go on a Bombing Raid 



ii 

25 

33 

48 

62 

76 

90 

105 

107 

114 

122 
141 

153 
169 

174 
189 

196 
204 

217 
228 



8 CONTENTS 

CHAPTER 21. "Sunny Italy" 234 

CHAPTER 22. The Forgotten Front 251 

CHAPTER 23. "We Didn't Know, We Didn't Know" 258 

CHAPTER 24. The Birth of Twin Nations 272 

CHAPTER 25. The Last Days of Gandhi 286 

CHAPTER 26. On a Rocky Connecticut Hill 300 

CHAPTER 27. Land of Darkness and Diamonds 311 

CHAPTER 28. Guerrilla Warfare in Korea 328 

CHAPTER 29. Nim Churl- Jin 349 

CHAPTER 30. My Mysterious Malady 358 

CHAPTER 3 1 . Gift of Science 369 

Postscript 382 



PORTRAIT 

OF 

MYSELF 



CHAPTER I 



MY 

INVITATION 

INTO 

THE WORLD 



{MARGARET, you can always be proud that 
you were invited into the world," my mother told me. 

I don't know where she got this fine philosophy that children 
should come because they were wanted and should not be the 
result of accidents. She came from a poor family with a multi- 
tude of children, and she had little chance to get an education, 
although she made up for this after marriage by going to college 
at intervals until she was over sixty. When each of her own three 
children was on the way, Mother would say to those closest to 
her, "I don't know whether this will be a boy or girl and I 
don't care. But this child was invited into the world and it will 
be a wonderful child." 

She was explicit about the invitation and believed the child 
should be the welcomed result of a known and definite act of 
love between man and wife (which Mahatma Gandhi believed 
I was to learn much later although Mother never would have 
gone along with the Mahatma on his ideas of celibacy between 
invitations. Mother believed in warmth and ardor between mar- 
ried partners) . 

Mother's plan of voluntary parenthood was so outstandingly 



12 MY INVITATION INTO THE WORLD 

successful in my case that not only did I come along as requested, 
but I arrived on the specific date that had been decided upon. 

This fine flourish to my orderly entry into upper Manhattan 
was as much the doctor's doing as my mother's. In the early 
evening of June 1 3 my arrival was imminent, and the doctor had 
directed my mother to walk the floor to ease and speed the 
process. He noticed that my father was placing some packages 
wrapped as gifts on the dining room table, and inquired about it. 

"Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary," said my father. 

"Put that woman to bed," ordered the doctor, and devoting 
himself to postponing my arrival, he held me off till two o'clock 
the next morning. 

This was a good birthday in any case for a little American 
girl, as on June 14 the whole nation hangs out the Stars and 
Stripes to commemorate the day when Betsy Ross hung the first 
American flag. But my friends who know my bad habits, and 
hear the story of my delayed arrival, are apt to complain that 
I have never been on time for an appointment since. 

I do not know how many joint birthdays, wedding anniver- 
saries, and Flag Days had been celebrated before my mother 
decided I was old enough to hear her invited-into-the-world 
theory, but I must have been still quite small. I believe she took 
the usual road to knowledge, brushing quite hastily through the 
flowers and the bees, and swiftly made the steep ascent into the 
more specific pages of the family Medical Book. 

This massive Book is one of my most vivid childhood memo- 
ries. We were not to touch it unless Mother showed it to us. 
To be given a glimpse into the radiant mysteries of the Medical 
Book was a reward for good behavior. On such days, my older 
sister Ruth and I were treated to a graphically unfolding diagram 
of the physiology of a woman, in which successive leaves were 
folded back to reveal the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, that lay 
underneath. On some rare occasion when we had been supremely 
good children, the last leaves of the chart were folded back, and 
my sister and I would exclaim rapturously over "the dear little 
baby" at the bottom of the diagram, neatly curled up and wait- 
ing to be born. 

Our home was always full of creatures waiting to be born. 
Mother and Father were interested in natural history, and I 
caught that interest with such lasting ardor that it nearly made a 



MY INVITATION INTO THE WORLD 13 

biologist of me instead of a photographer. Mother must have 
been very tolerant, her sympathy for wildlife notwithstanding, 
to endure the avalanche of glutinous polliwog egg masses, dis- 
integrating fragments of bark dotted with eggs of unknown 
vintage, and legions of moth and butterfly eggs with which I 
populated the house. When Mother noticed that one of her 
children had developed some special interest, she had a wise way 
of leaving appropriate books around the house. I read the Henri 
Fabre classics, The Hunting Wasps, The Life of the Grass- 
hopper, lived with the Comstock Handbook of Nature Study, 
which I consulted constantly as to the care and feeding of my 
assorted pets. One summer I raised two hundred caterpillars 
under rows of overturned glasses on the dining room windowsill, 
brought each its favorite fresh leaf diet daily, hoping some would 
complete their dramatic life cycle and emerge as moths and 
butterflies. Only the rare ones did, but when a telltale wiggle of 
a chrysalis or a little rattle inside a cocoon indicated that the 
last splendid transformation was due, our whole family would 
sit up all night on the edges of our chairs to watch that magic 
spectacle of damp shapeless creature crawling from its shell, 
expanding wrinkled wings until a full-blown butterfly took form 
under our eyes. 

My father was an abnormally silent man. He was so absorbed 
in his own engineering work that he seldom talked to us children 
at all, but he would become communicative in the world of 
out-of-doors. We lived during my childhood in a small New 
Jersey town, Bound Brook, and near us were lovely woods and 
the low hilly ranges dignified by the name of the Watchung 
Mountains. I treasured the nature walks Father and I took to- 
gether. Father could hide in the bushes and whistle birdcalls 
so convincingly that the birds he imitated came to him. He 
taught me the names of the stars, and how to distinguish the 
harmless snakes and pick them up without fear. 

Learning to do things fearlessly was considered important by 
both my parents. Mother had begun when I was quite tiny to 
help me over my childish terrors, devising simple little games 
to teach me not to be afraid of the dark, encouraging me to 
enjoy being alone instead of dreading it, as so many children 
and some adults do. 

Father's contribution to the anti-fear crusade met with com- 



14 MY INVITATION INTO THE WORLD 

plete and unexpected success. With Father's introduction to 
snake lore, I decided to be a herpetologist and become so much 
of an expert that I would be sent on expeditions and have a 
chance to travel. I knew I had to travel. I pictured myself as the 
scientist (or sometimes as the helpful wife of the scientist), going 
to the jungle, bringing back specimens for natural history mu- 
seums and "doing all the things that women never do," I used 
to say to myself. Father aided my herpetology by building wire 
cages to house my growing menagerie of snakes and turtles. He 
found me a baby boa constrictor in a pet shop, nonpoisonous 
as are all boas, but so delicate it lived in a blanket. To Mother, 
such close association with the snake was doubtless new, but 
how could she show fear when her child was unafraid? I can 
still see her reading the Sunday papers in front of the fireplace 
this recollection may seem odd to some readers, but to me it 
seems quite natural holding in her lap my most elderly and 
best-behaved snake pet a plump and harmless puff adder. 

If all this seems an excessive dose of wildlife for one household, 
it was wildlife that brought my two parents together. But for the 
bird walks in Central Park, which were popular toward the end 
of the nineteenth century, I might never have been issued that 
invitation into the world. Love of the birds took Minnie Bourke 
and Joe White to Central Park in the early mornings before they 
went to work. As both went to night school Mother to Pratt 
Institute, where she took stenography, and Father to Cooper 
Union, where he studied engineering the two must have had 
little time to meet in the evenings. But weekends saw them off 
on their bicycles for further nature researches in the Catskills. 
Bicycle riding was considered not quite proper for young girls 
in the eighteen-nineties, and my English-Irish grandmother, a 
staunch Baptist, stood at the gate of her little house in lower 
Manhattan and wrung her hands when her daughter, in a skirt 
shortened to three inches off the ground, broke the Sabbath to 
mount her wheel and pedal away. "Minnie was going to the 
Devil!" VI S B 

I am fortunate in having a charming photographic record of 
my parents during their cycling years, for Father was an en- 
thusiastic photographer. The yellowed prints show a youthful 
version of the features I remember so well, my father with his 



MY INVITATION INTO THE WORLD 1 5 

high wide forehead, his burning, black, deep-set eyes with their 
permanently grave expression as though his thoughts were work- 
ing far away in some distant private sphere of their own, as 
indeed they were; my mother unself-consciously beautiful in 
her bell-shaped riding suit with the leg-of-mutton sleeves or her 
finely tucked shirtwaist with modest lace touches at the throat. 
Shirtwaists were considered "advanced" and "not quite nice," 
my mother has noted on the back of one of the photographs. In 
one fading print she is shown with shoulders draped in a long 
fringed shawl. "This was an experiment with indoor photog- 
raphy by flashlight," my mother writes. "The shawl was Joey's 
idea and his arrangement." Her expression in this photograph is 
so tender and otherworldly that one of my friends who saw the 
picture recently exclaimed incredulously, "That was yowr 
mother! She looks like a Botticelli angel." Mother never dreamed 
she looked like a Botticelli angel or any other angel, She thought 
herself plain, so much so that in later years she avoided mirrors. 
Since the shawl picture was taken some years before my invita- 
tion into the world, I have no way of knowing whether the 
resemblance to the angels was there, or achieved by my father's 
photography. Probably a blend of both. But always the face 
that looked out over the starched shirtwaists or leg-of-mutton 
sleeves was shy and eager, full-lipped and wide-eyed, as though 
everything in the world was new and fresh and worth in- 
vestigating. 

"It was her open and inquiring mind that first attracted me to 
your mother," my father told me years later, in what must have 
been a rare burst of confidence, for he was a very reticent man. 

During one of the nature rides in the Catskills, the steering 
gear of Minnie's bicycle broke down and the two left their 
wheels, took the volume of Ralph Waldo Emerson which they 
were reading together, and climbed a mountain. On the top of 
the mountain, Joe broke his customary silence and asked Minnie 
to marry him. 

My father's silence is the quality I remember best in a man 
who had many strong qualities. It dominated our whole house- 
hold. Throughout my childhood, everything was geared so as 
not to disturb Father when he was "thinking." Father was an 
inventor who worked with printing presses, and the develop- 




Even us a baby I loved to 
climb up high. 



My brother Roger 
tinkering with the 
sewing machine. This 
was one of my first 
photographic efforts. 





Mother had lovely chestnut 
brown hair. 



Father and my 
sister Ruth with 
Rover. 




1 8 MY INVITATION INTO THE WORLD 

ment of offset lithography and the rotary press became his life- 
work. For years he worked to correct inexact processes in multi- 
color printing, and during this period our house was full of 
fascinating color tests in varying stages of completion magazine 
covers, Maxfield Parrish calendars, as no one ever saw them-in 
reds and yellows only, or in strident blues with warm tones still 
to be added. 

Father was the personification of the absent-minded inventor. 
I ate with him in restaurants where he left his meal untouched 
and drew sketches on the tablecloth. At home he sat silent in his 
big chair, his thoughts traveling, I suppose, through some in- 
tricate mesh of gears and camshafts. If someone spoke he did not 
hear. His ink rollers and pressure cylinders traveled with him 
even into his dreams. Mother, who understood him very well 
(but suffered through his silence: I can still hear her plaintive, 
"If only Father would talk more."), kept pad and pencil always 
by his bedside for those moments when he would wake for an 
instant, jot down some arcs and swirls, and fall back asleep. On 
Sundays, only his back was visible as he stooped over his draw- 
ing board. 

Now and then Father put the drafting tools aside and took 
me with him on trips to factories where he was supervising the 
setting up of his presses. One day, in the plant in Dunellen, New 
Jersey, where for many years his rotary presses were built, I 
saw a foundry for the first time. I remember climbing with him 
to a sooty balcony and looking down into the mysterious depths 
below. "Wait," Father said, and then in a rush the blackness was 
broken by a sudden magic of flowing metal and flying sparks. 
I can hardly describe my joy. To me at that age, a foundry 
represented the beginning and end of all beauty. Later when I 
became a photographer, with that instinctive desire that photog- 
raphers have to show their world to others, this memory was so 
vivid and so alive that it shaped the whole course of my career. 

On several wonderful occasions, Father took me with him to 
Washington where he made a practice of investigating his own 
patent rights. To this day, the musty smell of filing rooms brings 
back the dim recesses of the old U.S. Patent Office with its 
towering columns of document-filled shelves and its antique 
white-haired attendant who, Father claimed, knew every patent 



MY INVITATION INTO THE WORLD 




When a baby robin fell -from the nest, I took care of it until it ivas 
old enough to fly. The -father robin learned to trust me and would 
fly right to my lap to feed the baby bird. 



20 MY INVITATION INTO THE WORLD 

by number and could produce anything needed for reference 
instantly without even flicking through a card file. He needed a 
good memory just for my father's entries, of which there were, 
I suppose, hundreds of basic patents concerning printing presses. 

If Father had been money-minded, he might have become 
quite wealthy, but he paid no attention to money, was essentially 
the inventor and researcher, and made some unsound investments 
along the way just how unsound they were came out only 
when he died. I was seventeen then, just starting college, and I 
know now that if we had been wealthy, and I had not had to 
work my way through college as I did after his death, I would 
never have been a photographer. 

It is odd that photography was never one of my childhood 
hobbies when Father was so fond of it. I hardly touched a 
camera and certainly never operated one until after he died. Yet 
he was always tinkering with lenses and working on devices to 
make exposure settings simpler for the amateur, some of which 
he had patented. He experimented with three-dimensional mov- 
ing pictures long before their time, and what a thrill it was when 
he used us children as guinea pigs for trying out prisms and 
viewing lenses which created magic effects of depth illusion. 
When we bought our first car, he was soon so deep in experi- 
ments for focusing and dimming headlights that a drive in our 
new automobile attracted an embarrassing amount of attention. 
The weird network of rods and shafts with which my father was 
tinkering covered the hood like scaffolding over a church. 

Everything that had to do with the transmission and control 
of light interested my father, and I like to think that this keen 
attention to what light could do has influenced me. Father had 
thought even for those who had to live without light. He built 
the first printing press for Braille, and books for the blind are 
printed today on presses influenced by his early patents. 

The headlight dimmers, the projectors and camera devices 
came to nothing because of conflicting patents. But in Father's 
own field of printing, one development had a close link with 
photography. During the First World War he built eight small 
portable printing presses, compact and mounted on trucks. Until 
then, maps had been printed on great bulky machines far behind 
the lines, and were outdated by the time they came into use. My 



MY INVITATION INTO THE WORLD 21 

father's presses were sent out as mobile units to the front, the 
first of their kind, where they turned out fresh charts each day 
based on aerial reconnaissance photographs. Twenty-five years 
afterward, when I was covering the Second World War in Italy 
with the Fifth Army, I came upon presses in trailers hidden away 
behind projecting rocks and camouflaged with branches, and 
realized with a catch in my throat that these were the direct 
descendants of my father's portable presses. 

The popular idea of an inventor, I suppose, and certainly it 
was my idea, is of a personage who sits on a mental Mount 
Olympus and just invents. Only now, as I am glancing through 
long-yellowed bundles of letters in an effort to understand him 
better, do I see another side: the tortured spirit when a piece 
of work went wrong, the constant preoccupation with the diffi- 
culties, the distress (in a letter from Toledo dated 1907) when 
a press which he had designed to turn out three thousand im- 
pressions an hour was producing only two thousand, the constant 
striving for perfection for a degree of perfection which only 
he could judge. I realize now how his entire purpose was focused 
toward attaining this self-set standard, how deep in him the 
philosophy was: never leave a job until you have done it to 
suit yourself and better than anyone else requires you to do it. 
Perhaps this unspoken creed was the most valuable inheritance a 
child could receive from her father. 

That, and the love of truth, which is requisite No. i for a 
photographer. And in this training Mother shared. When I was 
a very small child, if I broke a soup plate, Mother would say, 
"Margaret, was it an accident or was it carelessness?" If I said 
it was carelessness, I was punished; an accident, I was forgiven. 
I am proud of Mother's vision in knowing how important it is 
to learn to be judge of one's own behavior. She did well to see 
that a habit of truth throughout life is more important than the 
broken soup plates. 

Some of her rules, I believe now in retrospect, were unneces- 
sarily Spartan, but this judgment is made affectionately, for 
mixed in with the strict regulations there was so much that was 
good. We were not allowed to wear silk stockings or to read 
the funny papers. We were forbidden to visit homes of our play- 
mates if their families subscribed to the funny papers. The 



22 MY INVITATION INTO THE WORLD 

comics, Mother believed, would corrupt any artistic taste we 
might have. "Uncorrupted," as I may be today, I find a comic 
sheet all but unintelligible, and as a result, a whole host of robust 
characters in our American folklore are complete strangers to 
me. I missed many of the early great movie classics, because we 
were seldom allowed to go to the movies. Movies to Mother 
were "too easy a form of entertainment for a child." (How 
shocked she would have been if she had lived to see the television 
set in so many homes.) If my sister or I took one of those school 
examinations where you are required to answer only ten ques- 
tions out of twelve, Mother's comment on hearing of this would 
be "I hope you chose the ten hardest ones." Reject the easy path! 
Do it the hard way! 

Perhaps because wearing cotton stockings was going at it the 
hard way, I went through school without getting something I 
passionately wanted, and the hurt was so deep I find I can hardly 
write about it today. Throughout all my grade-school and high- 
school days, I never was invited to a dance. Maybe all the boys 
who danced came from homes with funny papers. Or perhaps 
the Spartan aura of my upbringing was too unmistakably ap- 
parent. But whatever the reasons, real or imaginary, my suffering 
was very real. I loved dancing: I danced around the kitchen with 
a dish towel when I was a youngster, and went to dancing school 
when I was a little older. Mother said, "If you are a good dancer, 
you will always get dancing partners!" Everything else came my 
way, it seemed. I was one of the editors of the high-school paper. 
I was elected to represent our YWCA Club at summer camp 
conference a joyful honor. I had plenty of male partners for 
picnics, canoeing trips, steak roasts. But dances, no! 

Then a dazzling event took place which I believed would 
change all that. It was as unexpected as my faith in its influence 
was great. Plainfield High School, New Jersey, where I was then 
a sophomore, offered each year a prize "for excellence in literary 
composition." The award was fifteen dollars in books to be 
selected by the winner, and the contest was open to the three 
upper grades. Sophomores were never expected to win, against 
the formidable competition of juniors and seniors, but many of 
us entered the lists because if we were working on our "prize 
theme" which we were supposed to do throughout the entire 



MY INVITATION INTO THE WORLD 2 3 

semester we were excused from the usual English examinations. 
The finished literary effort was to be in the form of a short story, 
eight hundred words in length. 

As unthinking as the neglectful virgins, I sailed through the 
semester skipping exams and doing nothing on my theme. June 
seemed very far away. But suddenly it came and with it the final 
day. Themes were supposed to be handed in during English 
class, but a short grace period was allowed until 5:30, when the 
finished composition must be on the front porch of the principal's 
home. 

When school was out at three o'clock, I hurried to a quiet 
corner of the library with my closest chum, Tubby Luf . Tubby 
was a great handsome blond girl (not at all tubby), and she 
counted words as I wrote. The story was about a boy who wanted 
a dog. That was easy, because I too wanted a dog. By four-thirty 
I had written my way through the boy-sees-dog, boy-loses-dog 
part of the theme, and Tubby warned me that I had one hundred 
and twenty words still to go. This was just enough to polish off 
the boy-gets-dog section, and with a bare five minutes to spare 
we deposited the manuscript on the principal's front porch. 

When I learned that I had won first prize, my astonishment 
at my good fortune was less overwhelming than the radiant new 
future I saw opening up before me. The prize would be my 
passport to popularity. My career as a wallflower was at an end. 

I chose the books. The three I most desired came precisely 
within the price range: the Dickerson Frog Book, the Holland 
Moth Book, the Ditmars Reptile Book. 

Commencement exercises took place in the evening that year, 
and were to be followed by a dance. In an auditorium glamorous 
with green boughs and white carnations, the seniors received 
their scrolls; then a group of lesser prizes was handed out, and 
finally my great prize. To the accompaniment of what doubtless 
were suitable remarks from the principal but which I never 
heard I received from his hands a backbreaking bundle contain- 
ing three enormously fat green books, tied together with bows 
of white ribbon. Then the chairs were pushed back, the lights 
romantically lowered, and the band struck up a foxtrot. 

As couples paired up and dissolved into a swaying throng in 
the center of the auditorium, I took up my position confidently 



24 MY INVITATION INTO THE WORLD 

at the edge of the dance floor, my prize package held firmly in 
my arms. Throughout the foxtrot I stood serene, expectant. Dur- 
ing the two-step that followed, an anxiety ever so small- raised 
its shadowy head, and I pushed it back resolutely. This was just 
the second dance, after all. 

Waltzes followed two-steps. One-steps followed waltzes. The 
floor churned into a tighter mass. The books grew heavier. It 
never occurred to me to set them down. These were my creden- 
tials, my magic carpet into the new life that lay ahead. 

In that perverse and illogical way of many dances, the more 
crowded the floor became, this longer grew the stagline. Only 
the experienced wallflower can know how painful the sight of a 
stagline can be. But not one boy not one human in trousers- 
came up to ask me to dance. 

Finally an older girl, a tall and warmhearted friend of my 
sister's, came up and volunteered to dance. Here, on this night, 
to dance with a girl! This was the badge of failure. Through my 
distress I recognized her kindness; I could not refuse. The books 
were cached below a potted palm, and as the two of us glided 
into the central whirlpool, I am sure that she from the bottom 
of her generous heart wished as fervently as I that we both could 
be stricken invisible. 



CHAPTER II 



A 

BROKEN RING 
AND A 
CRACKED LENS 

v_y NCE OFF to college and the spell was broken 
-I was invited to dances. Lots of dances. Soon I was going to 
dances with just one man. We met in a revolving dopr. I was 
on my way into the cafeteria on the University of Michigan 
campus and he on his way out, and he kept the door turning 
around with me in it until I had made a date with him. From 
that minute on we fell in love so fast there wasn't time to breathe. 
Chappie was six feet tall with the shoulders of a football 
player, black snapping eyes, and a delightful sense of whimsy. 
He was a graduate electrical engineering student, working on 
his doctor's thesis in his specialty of electric welding. He played 
traps in a college dance band to pay his way through school. 

One hears that a girl falls in love first with a man who reminds 
her of her father. Chappie with his gaiety, his sense of fun was 
unlike my father, but when I saw him at his bench in the engi- 
neering lab, I knew here was someone who was just the same. 
Our dates, day or night, ended up in the lab, where Chappie 
showed me his latest microphotographs of wedge-shaped steel 
particles fused under the intense heat of his experiments and 
clustered in spidery patterns like Japanese silk. He believed 
welding would soon oust riveting on much heavy construction, 



2 6 A BROKEN RING AND A CRACKED LENS 

and a few years later, after our paths had parted, he was to 
develop the special steels used on the first welded streamlined 
train. Electric welding was more to him than a method, it was a 
faith, and this was an attitude toward work I had met before 
and felt at home with. The mysterious rearrangement of mole- 
cules that went on in the burning heart of the weld was more 
important to Chappie than anything else in the world-except 
what was happening to the two of us, and that seemed bigger 
than the world to us both. 

We chose Friday the thirteenth of June for our wedding day. 
We could easily have picked the fourteenth, which would have 
tripled the anniversary, but "to be married on Friday the thir- 
teenth will be fun," we insisted gaily. 

If there was a portent in our wedding date, there was an omen 
in our wedding ring also. Chappie was very clever with his hands 
and he decided to make the ring himself. We shopped through 
the jewelry stores of Ann Arbor for a gold nugget. I remember 
the circus had come to town that day, and we laughed when we 
bumped into the elephant parade every time we came out of a 
jewelry shop. Everywhere jewelers tried to sell us ready-made 
rings, but finally we persuaded a reluctant shopkeeper to bring 
out a tray of accumulated gold trash, and in the midst of some 
cast-off gold teeth we found three small exquisite nuggets. One 
was the color of butter, the second almost as white as platinum, 
and the third gleamed up at us, a rich red-gold, asking almost 
audibly to be selected. It came to seven pennyweight, just right 
for a wedding ring. 

Chappie fashioned the ring charmingly, with tiny hammer 
strokes making a beaten pattern over the surface. The night be- 
fore our wedding he took me to the lab to give me a last fitting. 
He laid the lovely circle on the anvil to round it out, gave it 
one light tap with his tiny hammer, and our wedding ring broke 
into two pieces. 

In two years our marriage had broken to pieces also. We were 
up against an age-old quandary which many brides have had to 
face, but few have met it with less equipment than I. As a nine- 
teen-year-old wife, I knew, I suppose, a surprising amount about 
the ways of the flying fish and the butterflies, but very little of 
the ways of humans. I had sailed into marriage with the sun in 



A BROKEN RING AND A CRACKED LENS 2J 

my eyes and the wind in my hair, and when I found myself 
engulfed in a silver-cord entanglement, I floundered about with- 
out a compass. 

The situation rose to a swift peak early in our honeymoon. 
The crisis broke in a single day the black day of my life the 
day my mother-in-law decided to clean house. 

We were honeymooning in a cottage on one of the lovely 
Michigan lakes, close enough to the University so that Chappie 
could drive in and play in summer-school dance bands. My 
mother-in-law arrived for a visit of uncertain duration. On the 
momentous day, Chappie had left the house very early to go to 
the University and do some lab work, and I was still in my room 
when the mopping and sweeping began. Feeling that I should 
be "helping," I dressed hastily, and slipped into the kitchen. 
Hesitating to stop for breakfast in the face of the vigorous 
scrubbing I could hear from the next room, I plunged into some 
ironing I saw waiting to be done. 

"Well, Margaret," my mother-in-law's rich contralto sounded 
from the next room, "how did your mother feel when she heard 
you were going to be married?" 

I tried to answer, knowing how different would be the point 
of view of the two mothers. "Mother was very concerned at 
first because she wanted us to finish school, and because she 
thought we were both so young. But when she saw Chappie and 
me together and could see we were truly in love, she was glad." 

"She's gained a son and I've lost a son." 

I could picture my mother-in-law through the wall. She would 
be regal and beautiful always even with a mop in her hand 
with her silver hair piled duchess-high on her head and her 
deep-set black eyes flashing. The rich-timbered voice continued 
through the wall. "You got him away from me. I congratulate 
you. I never want to see you again." 

Taking the speaker at her word, I carefully unplugged the 
iron, left the cottage, and walked seventeen miles to Ann Arbor 
to find my husband. It would have been wondrous luck if I had 
happened to have a nickel in my pocket, so as to shorten by 
streetcar some of those dusty miles. It would have been better, 
too, if I had had breakfast. But somehow, I was sure, when I 
found my husband everything would be all right 



28 A BROKEN RING AND A CRACKED LENS 

Things were never all right. I didn't know what to do; neither 
did Chappie. With more poise and experience I might have 
pulled the marriage back on even keel, for the feeling between 
us was very real and deep. But I see now we were unhappily 
involved in a classic entanglement that neither of us was sagacious 
enough to cut through. Nothing in the education of either of us 
had taught us how to meet the formidable problems of the silver 
cord. 

We were exposed to academic learning of every other sort. 
We were at Purdue University for a year, where Chappie was 
teaching and I studying. If I had had friends among other wives 
my own age, I believe I would have gained a perspective, just 
from seeing that we all had common problems. But the married 
student was a lonely oddity in those days, even disapproved of 
on some campuses. 

Though I was no older than my fellow undergraduates, I was 
separated by an unbridgeable gulf I was "a professor's wife." 
I was separated from the professors' wives with whom we asso- 
ciated by an equally great gulf they were twice, often three 
times, my age. Twenty years later Life sent me to Iowa Univer- 
sity to do a picture essay on GIs studying under the GI bill of 
rights, and there I saw the married GIs living by the hundreds in 
trailer camps. Their wives were studying, raising babies, partici- 
pating in the self-government of their trailer communities. How 
much I could have learned from wives like these. And to have 
lived in a trailer camp what paradise! 

"Everyone says the first year of married life is the hardest," 
I reminded myself. I had not expected it to be so hard as this, 
but surely the second year would be better. The second year 
was better only because we learned to face the facts more 
squarely and we recognized the marriage as a failure. 

And now that I was facing life again as an individual, I made 
a great discovery. I had been through the valley of the shadow. 
I had lived through the loneliness and the anguish. It was as 
though everything that could really be hard in my life had been 
packed into those two short years, and nothing would ever seem 
so hard again. I had risen from the sickbed, walked out into the 
light, and found the world was green again. 

I owe a peculiar debt to my mother-in-law. She left me strong, 



A BROKEN RING AND A CRACKED LENS 29 

knowing I could deal with a difficult experience, learning from 
it, and leaving it behind without bitterness, in a neat closed room. 
As I look back, I believe this beautiful rather tragic woman was 
the greatest single influence in my life. I am grateful to her 
because, all unknowing, she opened the door to a more spacious 
life than I could ever have dreamed. 

People seem to take it for granted that a woman chooses be- 
tween marriage and a career as though she were the stone statue 
on the county courthouse, weighing one against the other in 
the balance in her hand. I am sure this is seldom so. Certainly in 
my own case there was no such deliberate choice. Had it not 
been for a red-gold ring that broke into two pieces, I would 
never have been a professional photographer. 

It was sheer luck I still had that old secondhand camera when 
my marriage went on the rocks and I returned to college for my 
senior year. My mother had bought it for me when I was a fresh- 
man at Columbia and shortly after my father's death, when it 
was difficult for her to afford. The camera was a 3 }4 x 4*4 lea 
Reflex, modeled like a Graflex. It cost twenty dollars and had a 
crack straight through the lens. 

With my senior year still to go before I would get my 
diploma, it was a sobering thought that I had already been to 
six universities. It seemed that I had picked up only ill-matched 
smatterings of knowledge at each of them. My freshman year at 
Columbia I studied art, and by lucky chance took a two-hours- 
a-week course in photography under the late Clarence H. White, 
not because I wanted to take photographs but because the course 
dealt with design and composition as applied to photography. 
One doesn't learn much about photography in two hours a week, 
but Clarence H. White was a great teacher and the seed was 
planted. At Rutgers, my second alma mater, I attended only 
summer school and studied swimming and aesthetic dancing. At 
the University of Michigan, my third, I specialized in herpetol- 
ogy under Dr. Alexander D. Ruthven, later the beloved presi- 
dent of the University. Next, Purdue with Chappie, where I 
studied paleontology. Then Western Reserve night school, 
where I worked in the Cleveland Natural History Museum dur- 
ing the day. So here I stood, with my first marriage behind me 
and my seventh university ahead, poring through the college 



30 A BROKEN RING AND A CRACKED LENS 

catalogs. I chose Cornell, not for its excellent zoology courses 
but because I read there were waterfalls on the campus. 

Arriving in Ithaca, I did what other college students do who 
are broke. I tried to get a job as a waitress. Luckily for my 
photographic future, the waitress jobs were all taken. By the 
rime I got to the student library to apply for a tempting forty- 
cents-an-hour job there, that was snapped up too. I wept some 
secret tears, and turned to my camera. 

I believe it was the drama of the waterfalls that first gave me 
the idea I should put that old cracked lens to work. Here I was 
in the midst of one of the most spectacular campus sites in 
America, with fine old ivy-covered architecture and Cayuga 
Lake on the horizon and those boiling columns of water thunder- 
ing over the cliffs and down through the gorges. Surely there 
would be students who would buy photographs of scenes like 
these. 

I knew so little about photography it seemed almost impudent 
to think about taking pictures to sell. All fall went into making 
a collection of a mere eight or ten that I felt were worth present- 
ing. Still I was surprised at the growing feeling of rightness I 
had with a camera in my hands. I arranged with a commercial 
photographer in Ithaca, Mr. Henry R. Head, to use his darkroom 
nights where I could work up sample enlargements of my pic- 
tures which he would copy "in quantity" if we ever got orders 
"in quantity." Mr. Head was a pillar of strength. The minuscule 
business he got from his end of the arrangement could never 
hope to balance his generous technical advice. 

I belonged to the soft-focus school in those days: to be artistic, 
a picture must be blurry, and the exact degree of blurriness was 
one of the features over which I toiled during the long nights 
in Mr. Head's darkroom, diffusing, printing those celluloids. 
Ralph Steiner, whom I had met at the Clarence H. White School, 
a superbly sharp honest craftsman, caustically talked me into a 
fierce reversal of the viewpoint that a photograph should imitate 
a painting. 

Shortly before Christmas, when I opened my little sales stand 
outside the dining hall in Prudence Risley Dormitory, my pic- 
tures on display looked as much like Corots as my old cracked 
camera plus some sheets of celluloid had been able to make them. 



A BROKEN RING AND A CRACKED LENS 31 

And if I heard some admiring student murmur, "Why, these 
don't look like photographs at all," I took it as a high com- 
pliment. 

The pictures went like a blaze. I organized a staff of student 
salesmen on a commission basis to help me handle them, prevailed 
on the College Co-op to carry them, and then made a mistake 
that nearly prejudiced me against photography forever. Not 
realizing that the demand was seasonal, I overstocked, and tied 
up my small capital in print stocks which had no hope of selling 
for months to come. I grew to hate the sight of those pseudo- 
Corots piled behind my cot in the dormitory. 

Five dollars came in regularly from sales for covers to the 
Alumni News. I began getting letters from alumni of Cornell 
who were architects, inquiring whether I intended to go into 
photography after I got out of school, and stating there were 
few good architectural photographers in the country. This 
opened a dazzling new vista. Never had I thought of becoming 
a professional photographer. Also it opened a new conflict. 
Should I drop my biology for a field for which I was so little 
trained? On the biology side I had something that looked pretty 
close to an offer from the Curator of Herpetology at the Mu- 
seum of Natural History in New York. But to be a professional 
photographer what a tantalizing possibility! 

I must get an unbiased opinion of my work, I told myself; 
these architects were graduates of Cornell after all, bound to be 
sentimental about pictures of their alma mater. I would go to 
New York during Easter vacation, walk in on some architect 
cold, and base my momentous decision on his opinion. 

Someone gave me the name of York & Sawyer, a large archi- 
tectural firm, and suggested asking for Mr. Benjamin Moskowitz. 
Arriving unwisely late in the day, I went into the upper reaches 
of the New York Central Office Building, entered a frighten- 
ingly spacious lobby, and asked to see Mr. Moskowitz. The tall 
dark man who came out in response to this request was plainly 
a commuter on his way to the train. As I outlined my problem, 
he was unobtrusively though steadily edging his way toward the 
elevator. I did not realize he had not taken in a word when he 
pushed the down button, but I was chilled by the lack of re- 
sponse. If the elevator had arrived immediately, I am sure that 



32 A BROKEN RING AND A CRACKED LENS 

the next morning would have found me on the doorstep of the 
Museum of Natural History, but as we waited, the silence be- 
came so embarrassing that I opened my big portfolio. Mr. 
Moskowitz glanced at the picture on top, a view of the library 
tower. 

"Did you take this photograph?" 

"Yes, that's what I've been telling you." 

"Did you take it yourself?" 

I repeated my little tale, how I was considering becoming an 
architectural photographer, but first I wanted the unbiased 
opinion of an architect as to whether I had the ability for the 
work. 

"Let's go back into the office and look at these," said the 
unpredictable Mr. Moskowitz. 

He let his train go, stood up the photographs against the dark 
wood paneling of the conference room and called in the other 
members of the firm to look them over. After the kind of golden 
hour one remembers for a lifetime, I left with the assurance of 
Messrs. York, Sawyer, and associates that I could "walk into 
any architect's office in the country with that portfolio and get 
work." 

Everything was touched with magic now. The Cornell pic- 
tures, both the blurry and the in-focus ones, sold out in the 
commencement rush. College over, I took the Great Lakes night 
boat from Buffalo to Cleveland, and rising early, I stood on the 
deck to watch the city come into view. As the skyline took 
form in the early morning mist, I felt I was coming to my 
promised land: columns of masonry gaining height as we drew 
toward the pier, derricks swinging like living creatures deep 
inside I knew these were my subjects. 

One personal task remained to be completed. Cleveland was 
my legal "place of residence" that was why I had returned to 
it and on a rainy Saturday morning I slipped down to the court- 
house, quietly got my divorce, and resumed my maiden name. I 
used my full name, with the addition of a hyphen. Bourke had 
been my mother's choice for my middle name, and she always 
liked me to use it in full. 

I had closed the room; I had come out whole and happy with 
the knowledge of my new strength, and nothing would ever 
seem hard to me again. I was embarked on my new life. 



33 



CHAPTER III 



A 

BORROWED 
CAMERA 
AND A BAG 
OF PEANUTS 



IN THE MAMMOTH backyard of Cleveland, 
stretching from the foot of soaring office buildings to the 
swampy shore of Lake Erie, lies a sprawling, cluttered area 
known as the Flats. Slashed across by countless railroad tracks 
and channeled through by the wandering Cuyahoga, the Flats 
are astir with nervous life. Locomotives slap and shove reluctant 
coal cars; tugboats coax their bulging ore barges around the river 
bends. Overhead, traffic roars into the city on high-flung bridges. 
At the far edge of this clanging confusion, smokestacks on the 
upper rim of the Flats raise their smoking arms over the blast 
furnaces, where ore meets coke and becomes steel. 

To me, fresh from college with my camera over my shoulder, 
the Flats were a photographic paradise. The smokestacks ring- 
ing the horizon were the giants of an unexplored world, guarding 
the secrets and wonder of the steel mills. When, I wondered, 
would I get inside those slab-sided coffin-black buildings with 
their mysterious unpredictable flashes of light leaking out the 
edges? Cautious inquiries produced the discouraging information 



34 A BORROWED CAMERA AND A BAG OF PEANUTS 

that women were unwelcome in steel mills, especially in these 
particular mills, where they had been prohibited ever since a 
visiting schoolteacher twenty years earlier had inconsiderately 
fainted from the heat and fumes. 

My chief aim was to break down this imperious prohibition. 
I hoped to earn enough from architectural photographs to pay 
for the experimental industrial photographs I wanted to take. 

The thing I remember best about those early days in Cleve- 
land is the way my high heels kept wearing down slantwise. At 
the end of each day of toting my portfolio to the offices of archi- 
tects who were Cornellians or friends of Cornellians, I would 
end up at a little shoeshine parlor on lower Euclid Avenue, place 
my feet on a newspaper and hand my shoes to the proprietor. 
While the heels were being recapped, I made entries for my 
card file. 

In addition to notations on the architects and landscape archi- 
tects I had visited, my file included cross references recording 
what costume I had worn that day. Since my wardrobe consisted 
of a gray suit, which I wore with red hat and red gloves or with 
blue hat and blue gloves, keeping track of this placed a minimum 
amount of strain on my documentary abilities. But it was a great 
morale factor with me to know that any given prospect was go- 
ing to see me on a follow-up visit in a fresh color scheme. Per- 
haps by the time I got to a third visit, there would be a job and 
a check behind me, and that would mean a third color. 

On a red-glove day I got my first job. This was to photograph 
a new school, just finished, which had been designed by Pitkin & 
Mott, architects and Cornell alumni. Messrs. Pitkin and Mott 
were almost as new in their business as I was in mine, and there- 
fore it meant a good deal to them to get their schoolhouse pub- 
lished in a national architectural magazine. The editors of Archi- 
tecture had expressed an interest in printing the school if good 
pictures could be obtained, but those already submitted had been 
rejected as not up to publication standards. Did I want to take 
on the job? I did with joy at five dollars a photograph. 

A visit to the school revealed why my predecessor had had dif- 
ficulty with the pictures. The building stood in the midst of a 
wasteland, littered with unused lumber, gravel dug out of the 
foundations, and withering remnants of workmen's lunches. As 



A BORROWED CAMERA AND A BAG OF PEANUTS 35 

I walked around to look it over, the mud squished over my shoe- 
tops, but the lines of the school were good. The solution was to 
photograph it in silhouette against the sunset. 

On the first afternoon that a sunset seemed to be shaping up 
satisfactorily, I went back to the school, only to find that the 
sun set on the wrong side of the building. I would try a sunrise. 
For four successive mornings I arose before dawn, hurried to 
location and found the stubborn sun rising behind overcast. On 
the fifth morning the sunrise was everything a photographer 
could ask, but the whole idea proved fruitless because heaps of 
refuse in strategic places blotted out the best angles on the school. 

If only I could supply a few softening touches of landscap- 
ing! I ran to the nearest florist, invested in an armful of asters, 
carried them to the schoolhouse and stuck them in the muddy 
ground. Placing my camera low, I shot over the tops of the 
flowers, then moved my garden as I proceeded from one view- 
point to the next. By the time my asters had given up, exhausted, 
I had completed the photographs of the school from all points of 
view. 

When I delivered the pictures (which of course I took care 
to do in blue gloves), I don't know who was the more amazed- 
Mr. Mott or Mr. Pitkin at the miraculous appearance of land- 
scaping. Publication of the pictures brought more work and a 
tinge of prestige to the Bourke- White Studio. 

At this stage the Bourke-White Studio was a name on a letter- 
head and a stack of developing trays in the kitchen sink. I did my 
processing in the kitchenette, the rinsing in the bathtub; and the 
living room served as reception room when the in-a-door bed 
was pushed out of the way. Though so far, no one had come to 
be received. Still, my pavement pounding was beginning to bring 
some results, mainly from landscape architects who ordered pic- 
tures of gardens or estates they had landscaped and this meant 
sales to the estate owners, also. My darkroom work I did always 
at night. This night schedule began with the disastrous discovery 
that all my swathings of black cloth would not make my kitchen- 
ette properly light-tight. Unfortunately I found this out while 
developing a whole take on one of my early, precious commis- 
sionsthe fall-blooming roses in Mrs. Willard Clapp's garden. 
Even my miserably fogged negatives showed how exquisite the 



36 A BORROWED CAMERA AND A BAG OF PEANUTS 

pictures would have been. I had caught that garden just right, 
early sun dripping through the trees and outlining the garden 
gate, jeweled drops of dew highlighting festoons of blossoms in 
their last full-blown peak. Next morning when I hurried back 
to retake the photographs, I found that a pounding rain during 
the night had driven all the flower petals to the ground. 

One day while I was doing the rounds with my portfolio, I 
passed through the public square and saw a Negro preacher 
standing on a soapbox. He was earnestly exhorting the air, but 
no one was paying the slightest attention to him. Soaring about 
his widespread eloquent arms and gathered in a bobbing congre- 
gation at his feet were flocks of pigeons: what a wonderful 
picture! But that day I had no camera. 

Dashing to the nearest camera store, I begged to be allowed 
to rent or borrow a camera. The clerk eyed me curiously 
through his thick spectacles as I explained breathlessly about the 
preacher and the pigeons, but without delay he reached below 
the counter and handed me a Graflex. I flew back to the square, 
pausing only to buy a bag of peanuts on the way, and found to 
my relief that the parson was still on his soapbox, proclaiming 
that the prodigal son had returned. His flock had begun to stray, 
but a few well-aimed peanuts brought them fluttering back, and 
attracted also a growing crowd of onlookers who cheerfully took 
over the chore of tossing peanuts, leaving my hands free to finish 
the photographs. 

It was only when I went back to return the camera to the clerk 
behind the counter that I noticed the remarkably astute and 
kindly expression in the blue eyes behind the thick lenses. Every- 
thing about this camera clerk seemed stepped up above the ordi- 
nary as though intensified by some inner magnifying glass as 
strong as the spectacles he wore. When he moved, he swung 
strong arms from a powerful barrel-shaped chest. When he 
spoke, the words streamed out all in capitals, underlined, and 
sparked with exclamation points. Balding, short, enthusiastic and 
fiftyish, Alfred Hall Bemis was as eager to give photographic ad- 
vice as I was to receive it. It was lunchtime, so we went out to 
lunch, and naturally I told him how I felt about steel mills. 

Perhaps if there had been no Mr. Bemis, others would have 
helped for I believe a burning purpose attracts others who are 

A preacher and his parishioners, Cleveland Public Square, 1928. 



38 A BORROWED CAMERA AND A BAG OF PEANUTS 

drawn along with it and help fulfill it. But one would need ten 
others to replace a single Bemis. 

Mr. Bemis gave me badly needed technical pointers, but he 
never failed to recognize there was more to making pictures than 
technique. "Listen, child," he would say, "you can make a mil- 
lion technicians but not photographers, and that's the truth." 
Mr. Bemis took one look at my primitive darkroom facilities, 
salvaged an old chipped-up pair of condensers the store was 
throwing out, and built an enlarger in my breakfast room. "All 
we need is a little wood"-he found that free somewhere "and 
a camera rack and bellows" he tore these out of some discarded 
camera wreck-"shove in a light-and you're on your way." 

Berne, as I soon called him, saw to it that I had a hot meal at 
practical intervals, and when I spoke thankfully of this some years 
later, he dismissed it with "You were working awful hard, with 
your weatherboards right down to the sea." He gave me a line 
of philosophy which I have never forgotten and sometimes re- 
peat to myself to this day. I no longer remember what occa- 
sioned it: it must have been some petty affair where I feared 
possible competition. Mr. Bemis said, "Don't worry about what 
the other fellow is doing. Shoot oif your own guns." 

Fate was extraordinarily kind to me in those early Cleveland 
days. If the morning mail brought an overdraft of eight dollars, 
before the day was over I was sure to sell a print or two and get 
a check for ten. Various small magazines in Cleveland began 
publishing my garden pictures. The Cleveland Chamber of Com- 
merce used my Negro preacher on the cover of their monthly, 
The Clevelander, paid me ten dollars, and ordered more covers. 

These extras were helpful, for my hardest problem was to get 
enough rock-bottom work from the architects and garden own- 
ers to pay for the supplies I needed to keep shooting industrials in 
the Flats. Autumn was advancing and the sky was full of lumi- 
nous clouds. To this day it hurts me to waste good clouds. On 
brilliant days, as soon as I finished my regular architectural or 
garden work, and always on Sundays, I raced down to the Flats 
and photographed the industrial subjects I loved. 

Many of my pictures of industrial landscapes in the Flats were 
dominated by the rising skeleton of the Terminal Tower, Cleve- 
land's new skyscraper, which would be the central pivot of the 



The Flats were a happy hunting ground for pattern pictures of industry, 
such as this arched railway trestle framing the distant Terminal Tower, 



4 A BORROWED CAMERA AND A BAG OF PEANUTS 

Van Sweringens' growing railroad empire. The "Vans" were 
figures of mystery: two powerful brothers whom few people 
ever saw. They were reputed to meet behind locked doors when 
planning each swift move that resulted in gaining control of an- 
other railroad. Only one person was said to be close to them, the 
equally mysterious Mrs. Daisy Jenks, for whom they had built 
Daisy Hill Farm, where they all lived. According to the Van 
Sweringen legend, Mrs. Jenks had befriended them when they 
were orphaned newsboys. It was said that Daisy designed the 
private living suites that were being installed high near the top of 
of the tower. A secret elevator led to these, and the apartments 
were reputed to be fitted with Turkish baths and such extensive 
facilities that the Vans "could stay up there a year if they wanted 
to." Like beleaguered princes in a tower, it seemed to me. Later 
when the crash came, they were indeed beleaguered, and having 
a hideaway at the top of a tower didn't help them. They went 
down with the Depression. 

During this time that I was roaming the Flats, no one dreamed 
of a depression. We were in that last peak of the great boom, and 
the Vans, through their multitude of projects, had brought a 
great surge of building activity to Cleveland, and incidentally, 
had brought a great wealth of construction subjects within reach 
of my camera. Each trip to the Flats gave me new viewpoints on 
bridges: it might be the abstract construction pattern of a trestle, 
the cathedral-like arches of concrete piers which would carry 
railroad tracks, or the main traffic span of the High Level Bridge 
like a drawn bow reaching through the sky. It never occurred 
to me that I could sell these pictures, or that I was doing any- 
thing new. These were things I was impelled to take because 
they were close to my heart, so close that for some little time I 
was too shy about the photographs even to show them. 

Frequently, I caught in pictures the silhouette of the tantaliz- 
ing steel nulls over mountains of ore and coal. Sometimes I ven- 
tured as far as the guardhouse with a request to take my camera 
inside. But I was always turned away at the gate. 

Then, unexpectedly, I sold my first industrial picture. A friend 
urged me to take a portfolio to one of the banks. I could hardly 
imagine a bank buying a picture. However, Gus Handerson, the 
public relations officer of the Union Trust Company, needed 

Dynxmos were more beautiful to me than pearls. Niagara Falls Power Company, 



42 A BORROWED CAMERA AND A BAG OF PEANUTS 

covers for the bank's monthly magazine Trade Winds. He 
turned rapidly through my photographs, picked a shot of the 
High Level Bridge, said, "Make us a glossy of this," and with 
magnificent fairness added, "Send us a bill for fifty dollars." This 
was five times the price I would have quoted if he had consulted 
me. That picture paid for a lot of film. But the benefits went 
deeper than fifty dollars. 

Each month I brought in a portfolio of the industrial pictures 
I had taken, and Gus and later Don Knowlton, who succeeded 
himwent through them and picked a Trade Winds cover. No 
one gave me any directions. I was free to use my own imagina- 
tion, develop my own style. I was away from the usual influences 
the art director who hands you a tissue paper layout, the ad- 
vertiser who wants a situation glamorized no matter how far it 
may be from real life. These would have been strongly opera- 
tive, if I had started in New York and been drawn into the 
advertising agency circuit as I inevitably would have been. Dur- 
ing this formative period when I had so much to learn about 
photography, I was free to make my own experiments and my 
own mistakes. How many, I was soon to find out. 

Now that I had the delightful certainty of fifty dollars a 
month, I made a down payment on a battered, thirdhand, green 
Chevrolet coupe which I named Patrick. I added a third color to 
my wardrobe purple a dress I made myself. I hemmed up three 
new camera cloths, purple velvet to use with the purple dress, 
blue velvet for the blue outfit, and black velvet for the red. 
Some weeks later, my realistic photographer friend, Ralph 
Steiner, passing through Cleveland, talked me out of this non- 
sense: "What difference does it make what color cloth you focus 
your pictures with as long as they are good pictures?" But mean- 
while I felt very smart indeed taking photographs in my match- 
ing ensembles. 

When my new client, the Union Trust, called me in to photo- 
graph a prize steer in their bank lobby, I chose the blue velvet 
cloth and matching ensemble as having just the right restraint 
and richness for a bank. The steer had been raised by schoolboys, 
and whether it was being exhibited to induce the youth of Ohio 
to raise more steers or to raise more dollars to deposit in the 
Union Trust, I never found out. I took one look at that steer in 




This dress was purple, violet and lavender. When I wore it to work 
I corned a purple camera, cloth to match. [PHOTOGRAPH BY EARL 

LEITER J 



44 A BORROWED CAMERA AND A BAG OF PEANUTS 

his roped-in enclosure pure jet Lucifer with horns, against dead- 
white marble and I decided it would take more than a blue 
camera cloth to photograph it properly. I fled to Mr. Bemis. 

"You will need artificial light, child, a lot of it." I had never 
used artificial light in my life. "Do you know how to use flash 
powder? I'll lend you the apparatus" (we had no flashbulbs in 
those days) "but I don't want you to blow a hand off." 

A few minutes of instruction convinced Mr. Bemis that not 
only would I endanger my own hand if turned loose with 
flash, but all the depositors in the Union Trust lobby would be 
placed in peril. 

"Can you wait till the lunch hour? I'll lend you Earl." 

Earl Leiter was a wizard photofinisher who worked in the 
spiderwebby darkness of the fifth floor over the store. Among all 
the varied negatives that cross a photofinisher's table during a 
day, Earl, in an instant accurate analysis, could pick the right 
timing and come up with the winning number. Earl's trouble was 
that with horses, too, he hoped to come up with the winning 
number. He placed daily bets and lived for the moment in late 
afternoon when he could phone for news of the races. In all the 
time I knew him and he came to work for me later when a 
studio in the Terminal Tower supplanted my kitchen sink I 
knew Earl to make substantial winnings on a horse only once. 

Like all good photofinishers, Earl was a competent photog- 
rapher, and when we reached the bank he took charge of every- 
thing. As we climbed into the roped-in enclosure, we drew in- 
terested attention both from the friendly noontime crowd and 
the distinctly hostile-looking steer. Earl helped me set up the 
camera Mr. Bemis had lent me, got ready to shoot off his flash- 
pan, looked to me to give me the cue, and saw from my look of 
stage fright that I had forgotten Berne's directions for the camera. 
Manipulating the shutter with his left hand hidden under the 
blue cloth so it would look as though I was working the camera, 
he set off charges of flash powder with his right. Billows of gray 
smoke rolled through the bank. Ashes showered down on the 
shoulders of the depositors, and my blue outfit and blue velvet 
camera cloth looked as though they had been dipped in a flour 
bin. 

Back on the fifth floor we rushed out a proof. The picture was 



A BORROWED CAMERA AND A BAG OF PEANUTS 45 

no artistic masterpiece, but it plainly showed a discontented 
steer standing sharp and clear against a vast pillared bank lobby. 
The bank officials liked it well enough to order 485 copies, which 
they would get out to a lot of newspapers and schools next day. 
Could I deliver them tomorrow morning? Oh, of course! De- 
lighted, I ran back to Berne. 

"Kiddo, it would take you a week to turn out four hundred 
and eighty-five prints with that homemade enlarger of yours." 

I could not speak for disappointment. 

"I doubt if there's a commercial studio in town would take on 
an order to make four hundred and eighty-five enlargements 
overnight." 

My expression must have shown that I didn't want to let the 
bank down. 

"Come back at six o'clock when the store closes, child. Maybe 
we can think of something. Glossy prints, they wanted? I don't 
know whether there are enough ferrotype tins in the city. But 
come back when the store closes. We aren't licked yet." 

At six o'clock Berne locked the store, we picked up Earl, went 
to Stouffer's Restaurant, and ate a thick steak. Feeling a little 
like conspirators, we crept back into the store, climbed those 
five flights of inky steps, and turned on the ruby lights in the 
darkroom. Earl fitted the negative into the enlarging frame, and 
Berne hunted out all the electric fans on the floor. We set up a 
conveyor-belt formation: Earl with his beautiful precision 
timing struck off the prints, I was permitted to shuffle them about 
in the rinse water the spot where I suppose I could do the least 
damage while Berne squeegeed them onto the ferrotype tins, 
which he spread out against walls, over floors and tables, under 
the blast of the electric fans. The automatic rinsing and drying 
machines which came out a few years later would have enor- 
mously reduced our problem. 

At midnight we ran out of squeegee boards. There were a 
couple of hundred prints still to do. Berne and I went down to the 
store and borrowed the complete stock of ferrotype tins off the 
shelves, carrying them up the five flights in several trips. Shortly 
before daylight the last black steer had peeled off its shiny tin, 
the prints were trimmed and packaged, and the ferrotype tins 
that belonged to the store were carefully polished, replaced in 



46 A BORROWED CAMERA AND A BAG OF PEANUTS 

their tissue wrappers, carried downstairs, and put back on the 
shelves. 

After arranging with a trusted porter, whom I knew at the 
Hotel Cleveland, to deliver the precious package when the bank 
opened, I started home to get some sleep. I had been too busy to 
give a thought to the financial benefits of the night's work, but 
now it occurred to me that 485 enlargements at a quarter an 
enlargement, plus the fifty-dollar fee for taking the shot, equaled, 
according to my arithmetic, a Turner-Reisch convertible lens 
in a Compur shutter with separate elements for the long-focus 
effects I loved so much. A lens worthy of any steel mill. In an 
exalted mood, I drove the long way around so I could catch a 
glimpse of the steel mills on the way. Dawn was coming with a 
rush as I drove along the upper rim of the Flats. I parked Patrick 
on a high rise overhanging the riverside plant of Otis Steel. As 
though sealed away from the daylight, the steel mills lay in a fog- 
filled bowl, brooding, mysterious, their smokestacks rising high 
above them in ghostly fingers. 

Suddenly the mist was warmed with flame as a line of slag 
thimbles shot out of the dark and, like a chain of blazing beads, 
rolled over the tracks to the edge of an embankment, below 
where I stood. Car after car, they tipped their burning, bleeding 
loads down the slope, then rattled back to vanish into the murk 
again. 

"This is just the waste," I thought. "This is just what's left 
over! If the sweepings, the crumbs, can be so spectacular, what 
possibilities there must be inside, where those slag thimbles come 
from!" And I drove home in Patrick, wondering how I was go- 
ing to get into that magic place. 




My photographer friend Ralph Steiner took this shot of me on 
rooftop. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE 

ENCHANTED 
STEEL MILLS 



DEME, aren't the presidents of banks on the 
boards of directors of industries, and vice versa?" We were eat- 
ing goulash in Stouffer's Restaurant "Someone like the presi- 
dent of the Union Trust, I mean?" 

"Listen, child, old John Sherwin is on the board of directors 
of half the firms in town. More than half, maybe." 

"And I photographed Mrs. John Sherwin's garden. Maybe he 
never saw the picture of the steer in his own bank that's all pub- 
lic relationsbut he must surely know the pictures of his own 



estate." 



"I'd rather do business with the president any day than some 
whippersnapper down in the aisle," Mr. Bemis said. 

"Yes," I said, "especially if it's the president of the bank that 
you get to introduce you to the president of the steel mill." 

And so it turned out. John Sherwin, president of Union Trust, 
was puzzled that a "pretty young girl should want to take pic- 
tures in a dirty steel mill." But he was quite willing to send a 
letter of introduction to his friend Elroy Kulas at Otis Steel. 

Mr. Kulas was forceful, short of stature, able. In the twelve 
years since he had become president, his company's output of 
steel ingots had quadrupled. 



THE ENCHANTED STEEL MILLS 49 

This of course I did not know, but I knew very well why I 
wanted to photograph the making of those steel ingots, and Mr. 
Kulas eyed me kindly while I tried to explain. 

I do not remember the words I used, but I remember standing 
there by his massive carved desk, trying to tell him of my belief 
that there is a power and vitality in industry that makes it a mag- 
nificent subject for photography, that it reflects the age in which 
we live, that the steel mills are at the very heart of industry with 
the most drama, the most beauty and that was why I wanted to 
capture the spirit of steelmaking in photographs. 

He must have been a little surprised at the intensity of this 
twenty-one-year-old girl, possessed of this strange desire to 
photograph a steel furnace. And I, too, was a little surprised to 
find myself talking so fearlessly to the first industrial magnate I 
had ever faced. 

But during my camera explorations down in the Flats among 
the ore boats and bridges I had done a good deal of thinking 
about these things. To me these industrial forms were all the 
more beautiful because they were never designed to be beautiful. 
They had a simplicity of line that came from their direct appli- 
cation to a purpose. Industry, I felt, had evolved an unconscious 
beauty of ten a hidden beauty that was waiting to be discovered. 
And recorded! That was where I came in. 

As I struggled to express these ideas to Mr. Kulas, I remem- 
bered to tell him certain things I had decided in advance I must 
sayto assure him I was not trying to sell him something, that 
at this stage I wanted only permission to experiment. And he in 
turn expressed a polite interest in seeing and perhaps purchasing 
for the company some of the pictures if they turned out well. I 
said, "Wait till we see what I get, first/' And then of course I 
heard again about the fainting schoolteacher and about the "dan- 
gers": the acid fumes, the overpowering heat, the splashing hot 
metal. I wasn't the fainting kind, I insisted. 

Mr. Kulas turned to the portfolio I had brought, looked at 
the pictures one by one, and stopped to study a photograph of 
the Sherwin rock garden. It showed little rills from a spring fall- 
ing through moss-covered stones, with a little lead figure of a 
Cupid or nymph guarding each rill. 

"I think your pictures of flower gardens are very artistic," said 



50 THE ENCHANTED STEEL MILLS 

Mr. Kulas, looking up, "but how can you find anything artistic 
in my mill?" 

"Please let me try." 

And he did. He called in some vice-presidents and gave the 
word that I was to be admitted whenever I came to the plant to 
take pictures. And then he did me the greatest favor of all. He 
went off to Europe for five months. 

I did not know what a long-term task I had taken on, nor 
did Mr. Kulas and his vice-presidents. I believe the Otis officials 
expected me to come down once or twice for a few snapshots, 
and I came nearly every night for a whole winter. If there had 
been someone, however kindly, asking how I was getting along, 
asking to see pictures (when for months there was nothing worth 
looking at), I could never have taken the rime I needed to learn 
all the things I had to learn. Without knowing it, I had picked 
the hardest school I could have chosen. The steel mills with their 
extreme contrasts of light and shade make a difficult subject even 
today, with all our superior techniques and equipment. But then 
I had no technique, almost no experience. Also my difficulties 
were more than technical. The theme itself was colossal. Despite 
my enthusiasm I needed orientation. I needed to go through a 
kind of digestive process before I could even choose viewpoints 
on my subjects. 

The mill officials grew impatient. I was doubtless in the way. 
They were sure I was going to break a leg or fall into a ladle of 
molten metal. And a girl who came back night after night after 
night! What kind of pest was that? But the president had given 
his word. No one could gainsay it. I had my five months. 

The first night was sheer heaven. Berne talked about it when 
we met years later. 

"You had a very joyous time watching that steel. We were 
standing up high someplace and they pulled a furnace, and you 
were as delighted as a kid with a Fourth of July firecracker. I 
think you must have pyromania someplace. You grabbed your 
camera and you were off to a flying start. 

"You weren't exactly dressed for the occasion. You had on 
some kind of a flimsy skirt and high-heeled slippers. And there 
* you were dancing on the edge of the fiery crater in your velvet 
slippers, taking pictures like blazes and singing for joy." 



THE ENCHANTED STEEL MILLS 51 

My singing stopped when I saw the films. I could scarcely 
recognize anything on them. Nothing but a half-dollar-sized disk 
marking the spot where the molten metal had churned up in the 
ladle. The glory had withered. 

I couldn't understand it. "We're woefully underexposed," said 
Mr. Bemis. "Very woefully underexposed. That red light from 
the molten metal looks as though it's illuminating the whole 
place. But it's all heat and no light. No actinic value." 

So for weeks we struggled with actinic values. We brought in 
floodlights, laid cables; Earl set off his flashpans. But our illumi- 
nation was simply gobbled up in the vast inky maw of the steel 
mill. 

One tends to forget how quickly photography has developed 
as a science. With present-day equipment, steel mills still must 
be approached with respect, but then, film and paper had little 
latitude, negative emulsions were slow, there were no flashbulbs, 
no strobe; the miniature camera was not yet on the market. 
Stepped-up high-speed developers were unheard-of. 

"If only I could go to someone who's been taking steel mill 
pictures and would be willing to advise me," I said to Berne. 

"There isn't anybody like you mean." Mr. Bemis hunted up 
some shots made by a commercial photographer in the mills in 
Youngstown, Ohio. "These are the only pictures of the kind 
that have been taken as far as I know." I turned from them in 
despair this was not the way I thought of steel mills, these gray 
tasteless blotting-paper scenes. "They're what I call map pic- 
tures," said Berne. "No drama shown. But probably none called 
for, kiddo. You're trying to do what nobody's done, to put the 
artist's touch on what others have thought a very dull mechani- 
cal problem." 

Each night, Mr. Bemis borrowed some piece of equipment 
from the store, and we tried it out. "There's no one camera will 
take every kind of picture," said Berne. "A guy goes out to shoot 
pictures like you do needs a whole potful of cameras." A lens 
came in which we thought remarkably "fast" f 73. 5. It would 
seem quite average today. Berne lent it to me from the store till 
I saved enough to buy it. We still suffered from meager illumi- 
nation and from halation; the faster lens helped, but not enough: 
our shadows were far too dim, our highlights blurred paste. We 



r Z THE ENCHANTED STEEL MILLS 

heard of an exciting new development in film: infrared. I wired 
to get some, learned from the research department of Eastman 
Kodak it was made up only for motion picture film. 

I tried closer viewpoints, hoping to get more help from the 
light of the molten steel. The men put up a metal sheet to pro- 
tect me from the heat while I set my camera in place, slipping 
the shield away while I made my shots. The varnish on my 
camera rose up in blisters and I looked as though I had been 
under a tropical sun. I climbed up the hanging ladder into the 
overhead crane so I could shoot directly down into the molten 
steel during the pour. During some shots, bursts of yellow 
smoke at the height of the pour blotted out everything in front 
of the lens; during others, the crane cab started trembling dur- 
ing the vital moments, and all my pictures were blurred. 

By this time I was living entirely for the steel mills. The jobs 
I was able to keep going during the daytime just about paid for 
the films I shot up at night. And those same films, after exposure 
in the mills and processing in my kitchen sink, filled up my 
wastebasket-a gluey mass of sick, limping, unprintable nega- 
tives. At the end of a developing session Berne would pick up 
his hat, light one of his endless cigarettes, and start for the door, 
saying, "I'm going home to read the whole Book of Job. How 
Job sat in the ashes. Maybe it will do some good." 

And apparently it did, for then traveling salesmen came into 
my life. 

The first of these was H. F. Jackson, long-armed and long- 
legged, with a profile like Abraham Lincoln. Jack was traveling 
representative for the Meteor Company, which handled "photo- 
graphic specialties/' When he came to town, Berne called me ex- 
citedly. "I used to know Jack when we were both sixteen-year- 
old kids in Springfield, Massachusetts. He's the same age as me. 
I haven't seen him in all these years, until he turns up out of no- 
where with his case full of samples. I told him about your prob- 
lem, how you couldn't get enough light. Oh, he could get 
enough light, he says, to light up a hole in Hades. And he drags 
out these big magnesium flares with wooden handles, like Roman 
candles. He's on his way to Hollywood to demonstrate them for 
the movies. I told him if he would come with us he could see 
the steel mills, and he fell for it." 



THE ENCHANTED STEEL MILLS 53 

We had more than our usual red tape at the gate that night 
a strange guard who didn't recognize our passes, and then phoned 
endlessly until he could rouse some higher-up who would admit 
Jack. And while all this went on in the drafty guardhouse, a 
wet snow blew up, and through the storm we could watch the 
rising crescendo of rosy light glowing from the door of the open 
hearth, which showed us we were missing a "heat" and would 
have to wait three hours for the next pour. 

I know of no colder place than a steel mill in winter between 
"heats," and no hotter place than a mill during the pour. During 
our three hours we roamed the windy catwalks, climbed up and 
down ladders with the sleet driving through, and planned our 
shots. I was eager to work out a side lighting which would em- 
phasize the great hulk and roundness of the ladles and molds, and 
still not flatten and destroy the magic of the place. To do that 
properly would take two flares for each shot, Jack decided, used 
at each side and at varying distances from the camera. 

At the end of the third hour, Jack made a heroic decision. In 
his sample case were one dozen flares with which he had set out 
to conquer Hollywood. He would save one flare to demonstrate 
to the movie colony. Eleven he would demonstrate in the steel 
mills. 

Then in a great rush the pour began. With the snow at our 
backs and the heat in our faces, we worked like creatures pos- 
sessed. The life of each flare was half a minute. During those 
thirty seconds I steadied my reflex camera on a crossrail, made 
exposures of eight seconds, four seconds, two seconds, dashed to 
a closer viewpoint, hand holding the camera for slow instanta- 
neous shots until the flare died. 

In the beginning, Berne stood at one end and Jack at the 
other, each holding one flare. Then as the metal rose bubbling 
in the ladle with great bursts of orange smoke shrouding the mill, 
Jack was afraid we were not getting enough fill-in light. So we 
took the great gamble: he and Berne held two flares each. The 
eleventh flare we saved for that last spectacular moment in the 
pouring of the ingot molds that dramatic moment when the 
columns of tall tubular forms are full to bursting, each crowned 
with a fiery corona of sparks, and the cooling ladle in one last 
effort empties the final drops of its fiery load and turns away. 



The towering smokestacks of the Otis Steel Company, Cleveland, Ohio, 




Pouring the heat. Open hearth mill, Ford Motor Company, Detroit. 



200-ton ladle, Otis Steel Company. This picture won the Cleveland 
Art Museum award and was used by Fortune in the prepublication 
dummy. 




58 THE ENCHANTED STEEL MILLS 

The next night we developed the films, and there it all was: 
the noble shapes of ladles, giant hooks and cranes, the dim vast 
sweep of the mill. There was one moment of anxiety, when we 
developed the negative we had taken with the eleventh flare. It 
was filled with black curving lines, as though someone had 
scratched it deeply with his fingernails. 

Berne couldn't make it out. "The film seems to be damaged in 
some manner." 

"But the marks are so regular," I said, "like looped wire. Each 
one is a perfect curve." 

And suddenly I knew. I had photographed the actual path of 
the sparks. 

We reached our next roadblock after Jack had moved on to 
Hollywood (his company, I am glad to add, had sent him an- 
other sample case from Chicago). We were printing up our re- 
sults. "Berne," I said, "these enlargements look terrible. So dull 
and lifeless." I couldn't understand it. 

"The paper doesn't have enough latitude," said Berne. 

This was Steiner's mince pie all over again. Shortly before I 
took my steel mill pictures, Ralph Steiner experienced extraor- 
dinary difficulties in photographing a piece of mince pie. His 
mincemeat looked like coal, the crust like plaster, the final effect 
completely un-pielike. Steiner, always a meticulous craftsman, 
made many experiments until he analyzed the problem. I remem- 
bered he had told me that photography is a funneling process. 
The light range in nature (which the eye with its elastic aperture 
can see) is longer than any film can record; but the film can 
accommodate a far longer range than the more limited paper 
emulsion will hold. Steiner had concluded that with existing 
paper emulsions it was impossible to print a satisfactory picture 
of a piece of mince pie. He had solved the problem by asking the 
ladies of the Delineator, for whom he was taking the picture, to 
bake him a special pie with lots of light nutmeats and the palest 
raisins, and extra-dark spices in the crust. Thus, by funneling 
down the light scale in a piece of pie, he got his pictures. 

But I couldn't funnel down a whole steel mill. With Jack's 
help we had squeezed the lights and shadows into some sheets of 
film, but they still had to be tailored to a piece of paper. 

In this new crisis Mr. Bemis triumphed again. He produced 
another salesman. Charlie Bolwell was as plump and pink-faced 



THE ENCHANTED STEEL MILLS 59 

as Jack had been lean and gaunt. For thirty years, popular, good- 
natured Charlie had traveled back and forth across the nation, 
selling photographic supplies for Agfa. After the fullness of his 
service, his company retired him; Charlie found he couldn't set- 
tle down. "He's taken on a kind of missionary job for a Belgian 
paper that's new in this country," Berne phoned to tell me. "This 
Gaevert paper is supposed to have a richer emulsion, heavier de- 
posits of silver. It has what Charlie called 'the long gray scale.' " 

These were magic words. My heart beat faster and I could 
hear Berne's voice growing excited on the other end of the line. 
"I told Charlie, 'I know someone needs that long gray scale 
awful bad,' and Charlie said, 'Lead me to him.' I told him, 'It's a 
her.' I showed him some of the prints we'd made, and he's under 
the impression he can do better. We're perfectly willing to let 
him try, aren't we, kiddo?" 

Yes, we were willing. We would have a steak in Stouffer's 
Restaurant and then come out to my kitchenette. In concluding 
these arrangements, Berne all but sang into the phone, "Best of 
all, Charlie has innumerable samples to donate to the cause." 

Charlie Bolwell donated more than his paper samples to the 
cause. He taught me how to print. He showed me how much 
can be done with a hand gliding through the shaft of light that 
falls from enlarger to paper, how one moves the fingers to keep 
the "dodging" imperceptible, masking off thin portions, burning 
through the too-dense highlights. He showed me what the 
warmth of a palm in the developer will do, coaxing up a difficult 
area of the enlargement. From Charlie I received a new concep- 
tion of darkroom work, as though your hands working in the 
laboratory have become an extension of the lens that took the 
picture, as though it were all one conscious stream of creation 
from the judging of the light when the picture is taken to that 
final sparkle in the tray when your print is what you want it 
to be. 

By the time Charlie Bolwell had rescued my pictures and was 
on his way with a lightened sample case to make other converts, 
Mr. Kulas was back from Europe and quite naturally expressed 
some curiosity to see what that girl had been doing for five 
months in his steel mill. I picked the twelve best shots, put them 
on fresh white mounts, made a new red dress to give me con- 
fidenceand the dreaded, hoped-for appointment was made. 



60 THE ENCHANTED STEEL MILLS 

Berne drove to the mills with me and waited outside in Patrick 
"to be with you in spirit," he said, I got out of the car, and 
picked up my portfolio. 

Berne could see I was trembling. "Child, youVe come through 
with an armful of pictures the like of which no one has ever 
seen until now. Now run along." 

I walked over the long, long narrow wooden trestle that 
spanned the yard of the mill to the office building. I remember 
waiting inside Mr. Kulas's office, but standing near the entrance 
and behind a screen, while he finished with some other people. 
Then my turn came. I remember his surprise and pleasure in the 
pictures. He said there had never been such steel mill pictures 
taken. He wanted to buy some of them. How much would they 
be? I had given this a lot of thought. I have always had the phi- 
losophy that either one does things free for a gift, or when some- 
one cannot afford to pay or else charges what the work is 
worth. There is no middle ground. And I told Mr. Kulas this. 
I assured him I would give him the pictures gladly, but if he 
wished to pay, the price would be quite a lot. Because of the 
amount of time and supplies that had gone into the work, I had 
decided it should be one hundred dollars a picture. 

"I don't think that's a lot," said Mr. Kulas, "and in any case 
I am glad to have the chance to encourage you in your pioneer 
work." 

He picked eight photographs, commissioned me to make eight 
more, and laid plans for a privately printed book on The Story 
of Steel, which would be sent to his stockholders and would 
contain my photographs. 

I was back again on the wooden trestle. Berne says I came 
running like a madwoman to tell him the news. We tore into 
town and bought a bottle of champagne and raced up to the fifth 
floor to tell the news to Earl. I had never had champagne before 

i i -i-v i r o " 

nor had Earl. 

Berne pulled the cork, and the champagne gushed to the ceil- 
ing and sprayed all of EarFs negatives hung up to dry. 

The phone rang. Earl disappeared to answer it and came 
running back with a dazed and ecstatic expression. This was his 
great day, too. He had won eighty-four dollars on a horse named 
Heat Lightning. 



Electric welder, Lincoln Electric Company, Cleveland, Ohio, 



CHAPTER V 



FORTUNE 
BECKONS 



IN THE LATE spring of 1929, I received a tele- 
gram from New York: HAVE JUST SEEN YOUR STEEL PHOTO- 
GRAPHS. CAN YOU COME TO NEW YORK WITHIN WEEK AT OUR 

EXPENSE. It was signed: HENRY R. LUCE and under his name: 
TIME, THE WEEKLY NEWS MAGAZINE. I very nearly did not go. 
The name of Luce meant nothing to me. Of course I knew 
Time, which was then five years old. A trip to the public library 
to look through back files confirmed my impression that the only 
important use Time made of photographs was for the cover, 
where the portrait of some political personage appeared each 
week. I was not the least bit interested in photographing political 
personages. The whole dynamic world of industry lay before 
me. My discoveries had just begun. All over America were rail- 
roads, docks, mines, factories waiting to be photographed 
waiting, I felt, for me. 

Within that very fortnight, my Otis pictures had run in the 
roto sections of several Midwest newspapers, and I had had some 
interested nibbles from industrial firms. The most intriguing 
of these were Chrysler Motors and Republic Steel. Both plants, 
I was sure, would be sheer heaven to photograph, and I greatly 
hoped their inquiries would materialize as jobs. This seemed no 
time to go dashing away from home base, 



"FORTUNE" BECKONS 63 

For two days Mr. Luce's telegram lay unanswered. Then the 
yeast of New York began to work. Why turn down a free trip 
to New York? I could always use the opportunity to call on 
some of the big architects if I didn't like whatever Mr. Luce had 
in mind. 

With the inevitable portfolio of my most recent work under 
my arm, I arrived in Manhattan and hunted up the small and 
rather drab office building on 42nd Street near Second Avenue 
where Time Inc. occupied a modest section of floor space. 

I was received by two very tall and distinctly unusual-looking 
young men. Both seemed to radiate an extraordinary quality of 
restless imagination, although in other ways I guessed their per- 
sonalities were quite dissimilar. One I judged was as young as I, 
in the early twenties. He was lithe in his movements and slender, 
with a headful of tight, short black curls and a profile of almost 
Grecian regularity. He had a spirit of fun-making about him, of 
delight in the ridiculous, which I felt from the first words he 
spoke. He was introduced to me as Parker Lloyd-Smith. 

The other was Henry Luce. He was perhaps a year or two 
under thirty, strikingly powerful in build, with a large head over 
large shoulders. His words tumbled out with such haste and 
emphasis that I had the feeling he was thinking ten words for 
every one that managed to emerge. He began questioning me 
at once. Who was I and what was I? Why was I taking these 
industrial pictures? Was it just for fun? Was it my vocation? 
Or was it my profession? I solemnly assured Mr. Luce it was my 
profession, and a very serious one. 

He went on talking in that abrupt and choppy manner so 
characteristic of him, racing from one thought to the next, break- 
ing off into short silences, then leaping again from point to point 
in a kind of verbal shorthand. He left such gaps that at first I had 
difficulty in following him. Then suddenly I became accustomed 
to his manner, and it all swung into focus. I knew why I had been 
called to New York, and my heart skipped a beat. 

Mr. Luce and his associates were planning to launch a new 
magazine, a magazine of business and industry. They hoped to 
illustrate it with the most dramatic photographs of industry that 
had ever been taken. They were breaking away from the practice 
most magazines had followed in the past of picking up illustra- 



64 "FORTUNE" BECKONS 

tions at random, almost as an accidental sideline. Instead, pictures 
and words should be conscious partners. The camera should 
explore every corner of industry, showing everything, Mr. Luce 
explained, from the steam shovel to the board of directors. The 
camera would act as interpreter, recording what modern indus- 
trial civilization is, how it looks, how it meshes. Did I think this 
was a good idea, Mr. Luce asked me, pausing for breath. 

Did I think this was a good idea? This was the very role I 
believed photography should play, but on a wider stage than 
I could have imagined. I could see that this whole concept would 
give photography greater opportunities than it had ever had 
before. I could see, too, that it would make unprecedented de- 
mands on the camera. Photography would have to stretch itself 
and grow. I was proud that this was my craft and I would be 
growing along with it. 

In a room without windows back in some somber area of the 
building, Parker Lloyd-Smith, who was to be managing editor 
of the new magazine, had been working for some months on 
dummies. He was assisted in this by a nimble-minded, resource- 
ful dark-haired girl named Florence Horn, a specialist in business 
research. Mr. Lloyd-Smith brought out the dummies to show me, 
their black ruled squares where the photographs would be. The 
next prospectus would be the crucial one. This would be shown 
to advertisers to learn how they reacted toward the idea of the 
new magazine. Might he use my steel pictures in this dummy? 
Indeed he might. The name of the new publication was not 
decided. But one thing was decided right on the spot. I was to 
begin work on the new publication almost at once. 

When I was back in Cleveland with the good news, my friends 
shared in my rejoicing. I wrote my mother: "I feel as if the world 
has been opened up and I hold all the keys. 7 ' I was so happy I 
was almost afraid to walk across the street, for fear I would be 
run over before I had a chance to embark on this wonderful new 
life. 

It seemed miraculous to me that these editors and I should 
meet and join our forces at just this time I with my dream of 
portraying industry in photographs, and they with their new 
magazine designed to hold just such photographs. And yet I 
recalled that my father had told me of incidents where two in- 



"FORTUNE" BECKONS 65 

ventors on opposite sides of the world and with no connection 
with each other would sometimes work out the same thing at the 
same time. The world is ready for it, my father had explained. 

My father was very much in my mind during this whole 
period when I was concentrating on industrial photography. 
Many times, after a job which had given me special satisfaction, 
I felt a deep sadness that I could not show the photographs to 
my father. I was sure my feeling of at-homeness with machinery 
was something I had absorbed as a youngster on those shining 
occasions when he had taken me through factories. My love for 
industrial form and pattern was his unconscious gift. Now more 
than ever before, with this suddenly widened canvas on which 
to work, I wished he could see where his influence had led. 

A letter from Parker Lloyd-Smith brought the good news that 
the response to the dummy had been splendid. They were going 
ahead with the project. Our baby had a name: "Fortune." "If it 
isn't a success," one of my Cleveland friends remarked, "people 
will be calling you Miss Fortune." 

Eight months before the infant Fortune was due to appear, I 
went to work for it. On the Fourth of July, 1929, 1 met Manfred 
Gottfried in New York, and we took the Boston night boat to 
start out on the first Fortune assignment shoemaking at Lynn, 
Massachusetts. "Gott," who for many years to come would be 
chief of Time Inc.'s enormous foreign news service, had been 
one of the first Time reporters when that magazine had made its 
debut in 1923, six and a half years ahead of Fortune. Mr. Luce 
had described Gott to me as a "pillar of strength." I was delighted 
to find this "pillar of strength" could dance. We danced our way 
to Boston on the night boat, and it was a lovely way to embark 
on a new life with a new magazine. 

The next subject was glassmaking, and my next writer escort 
was Dwight MacDonald, fresh out of college, and "a rough 
diamond," Mr. Luce had told me. I met the rough diamond in the 
early dawn on the station platform at Corning, New York, and 
I remember how his suitcase, when subjected to a violent search 
for some elusive memo, suddenly fell wide open, and well-used 
shirts and pajamas began flying out all over the floorboards. 

In the electric light-bulb plant, we were fortunate in finding 
an artisan of a vanishing craft, a giant of a glassblower who stood 



66 "FORTUNE" BECKONS 

high on a pedestal and with the power of his lungs and the skill 
of his lips, blew golden-hot glass nuggets into huge bulbs, street- 
light size. The making of all other types of light bulbs was 
mechanized, and within weeks of our visit, these last handmade, 
or mouth-made, streetlamps yielded to mechanization also. 

The next subject was orchid raising in New Jersey, which I 
covered with Parker Lloyd-Smith. How delighted we both were 
when we discovered baby orchids were raised in test tubes, row 
upon row. Next day I was off with Florence Horn to the Atlantic 
Coast fisheries in New London, where I climbed slippery moun- 
tains of freshly caught fish to get photographs, and Florence 
researched the new freezing process which was about to revolu- 
tionize the whole food industry. 

We were storing up stories to serve as a backlog when fortune 
began publication, half a year hence. During this prepublication 
period, as well as later, Archibald MacLeish wrote many Fortune 
articles. We worked together in the Elgin Watch factory, where 
we were both enchanted by the exquisite shapes of minute watch 
parts. With his hearty warmth of manner, his powerful frame, 
and his face still bronzed from his recent mule trip under the 
Mexican sun, Archie MacLeish was very unlike my idea of a 
poet. (The muleback trip resulted in his narrative poem Conquis- 
tador, which four years later was to bring him the Pulitzer poetry 
prize.) 

From the Lilliputian world of watch parts, I plunged into the 
huge subject of showing an industrial cross section of an entire 
city. South Bend, Indiana, was selected, and Harry Luce came 
along^to work with me on the story, which would come out 
under the title "The Unseen Half of South Bend." Luce was in- 
trigued with the idea that there was a world many Americans had 
never been shown even those who participated in it, for they saw 
their own facet at close range, but never the integrated whole. 
We explored everything from automobile factories and foundries 
to toys and fishing tackle. From time to time, in getting permis- 
sion to photograph factories, we experienced some difficulty in 
explaining what Fortune magazine was going to be. "Oh, a sort 
of industrial National Geographic" people would say. Harry 
Luce, after a visit to the South Bend Chamber of Commerce, 
came back mildly chagrined that the head of the Chamber had 



Plow blades lined up for their bath of red paint at the Oliver Chilled Plow 
Company, used by Fortune in the South Bend story. 



68 "FORTUNE" BECKONS 

never heard of Time magazine then six years old and very suc- 
cessful. 

Harry Luce carried my cameras as we photographed the fac- 
tories. They were something to carry in those days. My mainstay 
was a 5 x 7 Corona View (and still a great camera) with extra 
bellows extension to accommodate convertible Bausch & Lomb 
lenses, a sturdy wooden tripod with massive tilt-top head, and a 
weighty box of i,ooo-watt Johnson Vent Lites strung up with 
masses of reinforced, heavy rubber wiring. 

One day during our visit to a foundry, we had just begun to 
photograph the pouring of a ladle of molten metal into a row 
of sand molds, when the mechanism holding the ladle slipped 
and the red-hot metal started splashing out all over the floor. 
With a gallantry I have never forgotten, Harry Luce dashed for- 
ward, grabbed my bulky camera and light stands out of the 
path of molten metal and swept all the equipment back to safety. 

I can well imagine the flood of invitations that would over- 
whelm Mr. Luce if he should decide to visit a factory today, but 
then, in the summer of 1929, with the debut of Fortune still half 
a year away, things were a little different. After a busy morning 
photographing some factory, we would hear the noon whistle 
blow. The shop superintendent, or whatever minor functionary 
had been guiding us, would scurry off, leaving us to forage for 
ourselves. Harry and I would hunt until we found some pushcart 
or vending wagon that sold to the workmen, and join the line 
to buy sandwiches and a bottle of coffee. 

But South Bend was not without hospitality. Mr. Vincent 
Bendix, head of the Bendix Brakes Company (Bendix Aircraft 
was to follow), invited us to his home. He was out of town at 
the time, but he wanted us to see it anyway. For Mr. Bendix, 
owning this home represented the exact fulfillment of a youthful 
ambition. It was the largest house in South Bend. As an impover- 
ished youngster, he had delivered newspapers to the doorstep 
and had resolved to own it someday. And now, in strict accord- 
ance with the American legend-he had built his vast business 
from small beginnings and with successhe had achieved the 
house of his boyhood dreams. 

In the absence of Mr. Bendix from South Bend, a stately, 
silver-haired office official, whom Harry and I nicknamed the 



"FORTUNE" BECKONS 69 

Grand Mogul, was appointed to take us to the Bendix home. 
Our guide took his assignment seriously. The furniture was 
swathed in summer dust covers, and the rugs were rolled and 
stacked along the walls. Against our protests, the Grand Mogul 
insisted on wrestling with the largest and finest of the Oriental 
rugs, which he spread out for us to look upon. 

Next we were conducted to the swimming pool, splendid in 
the August noonday sun, though empty. I do not know whether 
Harry Luce himself owned a swimming pool at that time, but if 
there is any truth in the legend that he had made himself three 
times a millionaire before he was thirty, he could certainly have 
possessed a pool if he had wanted one. I shall always carry the 
mental picture of Henry Luce, standing on the edge of that 
blazing rectangle, fidgeting in his yearning to escape, but gazing 
courteously into its white-riled depths. 

In a sweet-smelling woodworking plant, Harry was pleased 
when we ran into quantities of Singer sewing machine cabinets 
under construction. "All through my childhood, even in tiny 
villages in the interior of China, I saw that big S for Singer." 
(Mr. Luce was born in Canton of missionary parents.) "I used 
to marvel that these sewing machines could come halfway round 
the world to a Chinese family. I suppose many of those I saw 
were made right here in this factory." 

As we toured the factories, I was impressed by Luce's special 
quality of eagerness. On arriving at each new plant, he would 
hurry through, his leonine head thrown forward between his 
huge shoulders, his questions tumbling over one another. It 
seemed to me he was curiosity personified, curiosity magnified 
into a giant, as though he were being curious in advance for all 
his readers. 

Sometimes this giant of curiosity made mistakes, as in a caption 
he wrote under one of my Dodge Company pictures. When the 
South Bend story was published, Fortune received a flock of 
letters from readers, pointing out that the object in the fore- 
ground which had been labeled a crankcase was actually an 
engine block. Today a point like that would be snapped up and 
checked by a researcher long before it reached print. 

The whole approach to the South Bend story caught my 
imagination and taught me a great deal. Earlier, when working 



70 "FORTUNE" BECKONS 

by myself on industrial subjects, I would have gone through fac- 
tories such as these, spotted the points where I could make strik- 
ing compositions, and taken my pictures. Working for the inte- 
grated whole required a much wider conception. It added 
another dimension to photography. It gave the camera one more 
task: pictures could be beautiful, but must tell facts, too. And 
the idea of searching to record "the unseen half" was, I decided, 
an invaluable habit for a photographer to form for use in many 
places besides South Bend. 

An important item, and an exciting one, in planning a new 
magazine is the choice of the first story for the first issue. I am 
very lucky to have had the chance to take the photographs for 
this keynote spot twice in my lifetime, here with Fortune, and 
six years later with Life. 

With Fortune, the decision for the lead was made very care- 
fully. Essentially it must be an industry at the heart of American 
life and economy. Photographically it must be an eye-stopper 
an industry where no one would dream of finding "art." 

Our first candidate was International Harvester. Tractors and 
mechanized farm machinery were certainly close to the Ameri- 
can economy, and the subject gave us a running theme which 
I could photograph, from the factory to the wheat harvest. But 
we were still running into occasional red tape and delays in 
getting permission to take pictures for this magazine nobody 
had yet seen. When the tractor company proved "stuffy," as 
Parker expressed it, we switched from wheat to hogs. 

Hogs were a wonderful choice. Certainly most of our readers 
would not expect to find beauty in the Chicago stockyards. But 
to Parker and me, the interior of the Swift meat-packing plant, 
where we spent a week, had a Dantesque magnificence. Daily 
some twenty thousand pigs went the way of all pork flesh, and 
were carried in solemn procession along the assembly line. Parker 
called it the "disassembly line" and pointed out in the piece he 
wrote for Fortune that "each pig was divided and subdivided as 
exactly as a suburban real estate development." 

As I made pattern pictures of giant hog shapes passing through 
a corona of singeing flames, or under the flashing knives, Parker 
Lloyd-Smith, looking like a London fashion plate that had been 
set down in the most incongruous place possible, gathered his 
research. 



FORTUNE BECKONS 71 

The immaculate Parker Lloyd-Smith went into every nook 
and corner of the meat-packing plant but one. On our last day 
of work, we peeped into a building, hitherto unvisited. Count- 
less times we had heard the well-worn adage that the Swifts used 
all of the pig but the squeal. The sight that faced us proved it. 
Before us were pungent macabre mountains rich tones of ochre 
in the yellow light mountains of the finest pig dust. This was 
the last of the pig: the scraps, the leftovers, soon to be mixed in 
meal, fed to livestock including presumably pigs, whereupon as 
though following some Oriental doctrine of death and rebirth, 
it would continue its endless reincarnation as meat and meal again. 

Parker Lloyd-Smith took one sniff, bolted for the car and 
put up the windows tight while I took the photographs. He had 
a long wait, for the yellow light had low actinic value and I had 
to make time exposures. When it was over, I left my camera 
cloth and light cords behind to be burned. 

After we returned to New York, the hospitable Swift officials 
sent us prize steaks from their finest prizewinning steer. Parker 
took them to the chef at the "21" Club and gave a party at which 
the prize steaks were ceremoniously eaten. 

At a luncheon with Parker Lloyd-Smith, Tom Cleland, the 
noted typographer and Fortune's first art director, sketched on 
the tablecloth his idea for Fortune's first cover: the wheel of 
fortune, to be done in bronze tones on a golden background. 
Parker tore off the piece of linen and framed it for his apartment. 

Then a twist of the fateful wheel nearly cost us Fortune 
magazine when it was still three months unborn. The event took 
place in late fall. I was in Boston at the time, doing a job for the 
First National Bank: a series of architectural photographs of their 
newly decorated lobby, which would run as ads in forthcoming 
issues of Fortune. 

While I was in Boston, I acquired a new and glamorous boy 
friend from Harvard who was going to take me to a football 
game. Hoping to be able to make a few searching remarks to my 
escort during the game, I had been secretly cramming whenever 
I had a moment on a slender volume entitled HOID to Under- 
stand Football. 

I had so many pictures to take to finish up the bank job that 
I decided to work at night. The chief electrician of the bank 
generously consented to stick with me the whole night through. 



72 "FORTUNE" BECKONS 

We could work better at night anyway, we both decided, for 
there would be no one to get in our way. 

Expecting to see the bank lobby deserted after nightfall, we 
were astounded to find it full of vice-presidents and other bank 
officials running about, conferring, leaning over their desks, 
darting here and there with memos. Since my rime exposures in 
the cavernous bank lobby had to be very long, I found this quite 
a nuisance, as I had to cap my lens every time a vice-president 
dashed in front of the camera. Undoubtedly the vice-presidents 
found my lights an equal nuisance, for I used strings of 1,000- 
watt Vent Lites (this was before the flash and strobe era) and 
these were blazing in their faces. But they seemed too preoccu- 
pied even to complain of the lights. 

My electrician, however, had no hesitation about registering 
complaints from our side. He was a stout, little barrel-shaped 
man who had been a professional bicycle rider in his youth. He 
took a strong stance beside the tripod and muttered every time 
a bank official rushed in front of the camera, "Oh, give the little 
girl a break." 

Finally one vice-president paused to talk back. As though he 
were addressing a very little girl indeed, he said, "I guess you 
don't know, the bottom dropped out of everything." The bottom 
dropped out of what? "The stock market! Haven't you read 
the papers?" I hadn't. I had read only my football guide. 
"They're carrying everything away in a basket." 

With these words, the official ran back to his worried con- 
ferences, and my aide and I returned to our task of sweeping the 
field free of people for each photograph. 

The significance of the stock market crash may have been 
lost upon me, but it certainly was not so with the editors and 
stockholders of our publishing enterprise. They had a worried 
conference of their own in which the fate of Fortune hung in 
the balance, but happily they decided to take the risk, go ahead 
just as planned, and bring out Vol. r, No. i in February, 1930. 

Years later, after both Fortune and Life were on a substantial 
basis, I happened to tell this incident to Roy Larsen. "To think," 
he said, "you must have been the only photographer in the whole 
United States who was inside a bank that night." 

History was pushing her face into the camera, and here was I, 
turning my lens the other way. 

Log rafts on their 'way to the paper mills cluster like lily pads on the 
surface of Lake St. John, Canada. Newsprint story for Fortune. 




A coal rig rises like a dinosaur on the shore of Lake Superior. Used 
by Fortune in the Great Lakes story. 



George Washington Bridge, photographed for Fortune'* story on the Port 
of New York. 



CHAPTER VI 



SKYSCRAPERS 

AND 

ADVERTISING 



HISTORY had been on my side longer than I 
knew. She had allowed me two years from the time of my gradu- 
ation from college to make my industrial explorations before 
ringing down the curtain of depression on the expansive twenties. 
She had pushed me around the corner into the meager thirties, 
and even though I did not always heed her or hear her, she was 
making of this something more than the turn of a decade. She 
was building in enough social ferment to keep photographers 
busy in many countries for many years. But meanwhile, there 
was still some of the bounce of the boom period left, and I am 
grateful to her for getting me to the right place at the right 
time to photograph a most curious event-a heaven-climbing 
contest which could take place only in America indeed, only 
in Manhattan, where a tight little island must pile itself layer 
on layer upward if it was to grow at all. 

In this battle of the skyscrapers, the chief contenders were 
the 927-foot Bank of Manhattan and the unfinished Chrysler 
Building, slated to rise to more than 1,000 feet, and I was brought 
in as a sort of war correspondent on the Chrysler side. The 
scene of battle was that relatively narrow band of atmosphere 
ranging from 800-1,200 feet above the sidewalks of New York. 
Who can doubt that this was a forerunner of the contest for 



outer space which would follow after a quarter of a century? 
Then, as now, a principal target was prestige. A skyscraper was 
a tall and strong feather in the cap of that ultra-rare individual 
who could afford to build one. 

For forty years the championship was held at 792 feet by a 
tower ornamented in the Gothic style and erected literally on 
dimes and nickels: the Woolworth Tower. Certainly Mr. Walter 
Percy Chrysler was aware of the stupendous advertising value 
generated when the world's highest building bears the name of 
your product. And this was where I came in. 

A dastardly rumor had been circulated, undoubtedly by some 
busy banker, that the Chrysler Building would not actually 
surpass the Bank of Manhattan, despite the Chrysler claim of 
total supremacy at 1,046 feet. The insinuation was that the 
Chryslers were merely pasting on an ornamental steel tower to 
gain the few feet needed to make the world's record. I had been 
photographing the mile-long Chrysler factory in Detroit and was 
given the job in New York of taking progress pictures of each 
stage of construction to show that the tower was an integral part 
of the building. The Chryslers need not have gone to such 
lengths to prove their supremacy, because in one short year it did 
not matter anyway. All the man-made structures of this planet 
would be topped by a spire rising to the magnificent height of 
1,250 feet, freezing the world's altitude record to date, and built 
by a man named Smith. 

Fortune ran one or two of the Chrysler Building pictures. I 
don't know whether the photographs proved anything except 
that a photographer has to work in all kinds of weather. I had to 
take pictures during the midwinter of 1929-30, 800 feet 
above the street, working on a tower that swayed 8 feet in the 
wind, often in subfreezing temperatures, but all this did not 
bother me too much. Perhaps it took more out of me than I was 
aware. I recall one occasion when I had worked all day on an 
open scaffold and then descended fifty steps of unfinished stair- 
way under my own footpower. After summoning a cab, I found 
I could not make the step from the curb into the taxi. I fell and 
cut my shins, a trivial thing, but often I am impressed with how 
the human body will store its little infirmities until there is time 
to deal with them. 



70 SKYSCRAPERS AND ADVERTISING 

Heights held no terrors for me. I was lucky in having a God- 
given sense of balance and also a great deal of practice in my 
childhood. My sister Ruth and I had a pact to walk the entire 
distance to school and back on the thin edges of fences. It was 
a point of honor to dismount only for crossroads and brooks. 
Here on the heights of the Chrysler tower, I had additional 
instruction from the welders and riveters who gave me a valuable 
rule which I have often remembered and acted upon: when you 
are working at 800 feet above the ground, make believe that you 
are 8 feet up and relax, take it easy. The problems are really 
exactly the same. 

On the sixty-first floor, the workmen started building some 
curious structures which overhung 4ind Street and Lexington 
Avenue below. When I learned these were to be gargoyles a la 
Notre Dame, but made of stainless steel as more suitable for the 
twentieth century, I decided that here would be my new studio. 
There was no place in the world that I would accept as a substi- 
tute. I was ready to close my studio in Cleveland in order to be 
nearer Fortune, but it was the gargoyles which gave me the 
final spurt into New York. 

It was surprisingly difficult to get my studio space. The 
Chrysler people seemed to think that since I was female, young, 
and not too plain, I would surely get married before much time 
went by. That would put a stop to all this photography business, 
and then who would pay the rent? Fortune helped me to get the 
studio space. This did not mean any concession on the part of my 
august landlords, in the size of the rent, which was as high per 
square foot as any in the city. It was just that the privilege of 
paying rent became mine. 

My first step was to apply for the job as Chrysler Building 
janitor. This was not because I wanted to run up and down its 
seventy-seven stories with a floor mop. I wanted to live in my 
studio, and there was a New York City law which stipulated 
that no one could live in an office building except the janitor. 
I was turned down for the position of janitor. Some other more 
fortunate tenant, perhaps one of the Chryslers themselves, had 
beaten me to it. I loved my studio so that I hated to go home at 
night. Frequently I worked the whole night through until dawn 
came and the mist rolled back revealing the great city below. 



Working from the modern gargoyle outside my studio f wi7zdo f w : the 
sixty-first floor of the Chrysler Building, 800 -feet above the sidewalk. 
[PHOTOGRAPH BY OSCAR GRAUBNER] 



80 SKYSCRAPERS AND ADVERTISING 

I would brush my teeth, run out for a hot breakfast and come 
back to work. I hoped this was legal. 

It turned out that I had not one but a pair of gargoyles re- 
splendent in stainless steel and pointing to the southeast. This 
was certainly the world's highest studio, and I think it was the 
world's most beautiful studio, too. It was furnished and decorated 
in the most modern simplicity by John Vassos, who is a man of 
considerable designing talent and also a dear friend. Vassos has 
a strong feeling for unadorned materials. I had a clear glass desk, 
a tropical fish tank which was built into a wall, and natural wood 
and aluminum were used everywhere. 

I loved the view so much that I often crawled out on the 
gargoyles, which projected over the street 800 feet below, to 
take pictures of the changing moods of the city. I had a large 
terrace where I gave parties and a small terrace where I kept two 
pet alligators which a friend had sent me from Florida. The alli- 
gators, plus a few turtles, reminded me pleasantly of the herpe- 
tology days of my childhood. At feeding time, I tossed the alli- 
gators big slabs of raw beef which they playfully tore from each 
other. They grew very fast and ate a great deal, even bolting 
down several of my turtles, shell and all. I thought they would 
find this meal quite indigestible, but they calmly slept it off. It 
astonished me to find the law of the jungle operating in a pent- 
house at the top of a skyscraper. 

No one, so far as I know, achieves a penthouse studio without 
acquiring a couple of husky advertising accounts to keep it 
going. My two accounts were Buick cars and Goodyear tires. 
It was inevitable that I would slip into advertising work as soon 
as I moved to New York, particularly since the larger industries 
in the Cleveland, Akron and Detroit areas, where I had already 
done a considerable amount of work, had accounts with adver- 
tising agencies in New York. 

The real gift of the advertising business to me was practice in 
precision. I never felt I was a very good advertising photographer, 
but the practice I got while I tried to be a good one was in- 
valuable. I have always been glad I stayed in Cleveland and close 
to the industries of the Midwest until my style and, even more 
important, my convictions were formed. But once in the adver- 
tising field, I was glad to have a chance to learn so much in a 
very stiff school. 



SKYSCRAPERS AND ADVERTISING 8 1 

In taking advertising pictures, if you have to photograph a 
surface of polished silver, it must look more like silver than silver 
itself. This is difficult because the mind's eye fills in the glossy 
surfaces with more light than is actually there. The more direct 
light you throw on the subject, the more like a black mirror it 
becomes. You need indirect light and big sheets and white tents 
for reflectors and a prayer that you don't find the image of your- 
self and your camera in the negative when you develop the film 
the next morning. If your subject is soup, it must out-soup any 
you ever dreamed of, with fragrant fumes rising straight from 
the film gelatin. If you photograph a rubber tire, it must look 
more like rubber than rubber itself. This became my specialty. 

In my glorification of the rubber tire, I concerned myself not 
only with the rubbery aspects of the tire itself but with the tire 
tracks and the tire's supernatural powers. These were tires that 
had a built-in magic called "The Goodyear Margin of Safety." 
A car equipped with these tires stopped almost automatically 
before running down helpless pedestrians and always, in stop- 
ping, allowed just the right amount of space on the street for 
the enchanted slogan "The Goodyear Margin of Safety," which 
the airbrush man would letter in before the ad reached the 
Satevepost. And oh, the darling little children who fell off their 
tricycles or their bicycles or tripped on their roller skates square 
in front of an oncoming car. The Goodyear Margin of Safety 
saved their lives every time. 

This magic margin worked for adults, too. Our favorite char- 
acter was the American housewife carrying home her groceries. 
Over and over she flung herself in front of cars for us, spilling 
a veritable cornucopia of groceries: potatoes that would roll and 
eggs that would smash. 

I remember a gigantic production, a rainy day scene for which 
we made king-size arrangements such as getting permission to 
rope off a whole city block on the upper East Side. We chartered 
a bus and filled it with professional models as passengers who 
expressed emotions of horror when our housewife slipped in the 
wet street. As the crowds of bystanders gathered, we put them 
to work, too, expressing as much horror as they were capable of. 
One of our leading characters was the policeman, a model of 
appropriate build who wore a hired police uniform and slipped 
instantly into postures of great drama on demand. 



8 2 SKYSCRAPERS AND ADVERTISING 

The rain petered out before we got well started, and we 
bought a couple of lengths of garden hose and got permission to 
connect them in somebody's cellar. We had our policeman model 
thoroughly hosed down, and I was adding a last-minute touch 
with a little watering can to create artistic drops tumbling off his 
hat, when a real policeman appeared and demanded our license. 
What license? The one for turning on a hose in the street. What 
should we do? In a wordless exchange of messages it became 
quite clear to the policeman that this would be worth his while. 
It was. With extreme tact, he left. One minute later I wished he 
had stayed. The departure of the policeman was a signal for all 
the children from blocks around to come pouring in. This was a 
severe problem for me. Several good takes were ruined by the 
surge of children into our working area, pushing each other, 
overflowing into the picture. In my efforts to shoot over their 
heads, I jumped on the hood of a car parked by the curb. An 
angry man snarled that I must get off his car. His equally angry 
wife rose to my support. It wasn't his car, it was her car. The 
young lady could stay there as long as she liked. This brought 
about a lively scufHe between the two. While I was deeply grate- 
ful to my benefactress, I did wish the two of them would carry 
on their argument somewhere other than in front of their car, 
where they effectively blocked off the scene I had been trying 
for so long to photograph. 

Small wonder that after a session like this I welcomed the 
chance to go quietly to jail. This involved the problem of get- 
ting before and after shots for a hair tonic ad. The regular model 
agencies had no man on call who was willing to emerge from this 
job as hairless as a billiard ball. The pictures, of course, would be 
taken in reverse. Finally we managed to get permission to press 
our search behind prison walls, and there we found a cheerful 
convict overwhelmed to obtain legally a fifty-dollar nest egg in 
exchange for losing all his hair. He was a lifer and had plenty of 
time to grow it back. 

The chief question to answer when taking advertising pictures 
was "Is it convincing?" Since much of this work had the aspects 
of a madhouse, I especially welcomed that word "convincing." 
Passing this test I always felt was valuable experience for a pho- 
tographer. 



SKYSCRAPERS AND ADVERTISING 83 

My most unusual job, and one which no one expected to be 
convincing, was to photograph a knight in shining armor in Cen- 
tral Park. This was one of a series of six institutional ads which I 
did for the Scripps-Howard newspapers, and I can no longer re- 
member what the idea was behind the ad, but I suppose the sym- 
bolism is clear whether the shining armor is worn by Scripps- 
Howard or by Sir Galahad. 

The agencies had no one on call who could handle a horse and 
manage shining armor, too. Finally I found some friend of a 
friend who was intrigued by the problem and began researching 
all possible sources of shining armor in New York. He investi- 
gated stage armor at the costume companies, and backstage opera 
supplies, discarding them all as unworthy. Then he visited mu- 
seums until he found a well-fitting and authentic steel suit and 
secured permission to wear it. Getting a horse was easy. There 
was a riding academy close to the Park. It was no fault of the 
horse that it had learned nothing of knight errantry during its 
lifetime beat around Central Park. The hoist used in medieval 
times to raise a king into his saddle was naturally unobtainable. 
It was a tribute to the horsemanship of our knight that he man- 
aged to mount the terrified, charging beast before the stable was 
knocked to pieces. Once in the park, the horse and rider looked 
splendid against the trees and sky. And only after it was all over, 
I learned that the armor, which had seemed to be molded to his 
figure, gouged and pinched at all the joints every time the horse 
made a movement. When I think of the willingness with which 
he cantered for me in spite of these tortures, I look back on it as 
an act of purest twentieth-century chivalry. 

The medieval knight galloping through Central Park in his 
shining armor may have seemed misplaced by a few centuries 
to startled pedestrians, but to me he was no more incongruous 
than the shiny automobiles, strictly twentieth-century, which I 
photographed for the advertisers. Truly these were enchanted 
motorcars. No sorrow ever befell their occupants. The joy on 
the faces of the drivers and the driven was indelible. As with the 
world of Buddha while he was still an earthly prince guarded 
from any knowledge of unhappiness or want, life with die right 
motorcar held no poverty, no old age, no grief. The lucky 
passengers who motored through the advertising pages were 



84 SKYSCRAPERS AND ADVERTISING 

perpetually headed toward paradise, where all they had to do was 
smile, smile, smile. 

I, too, should have smiled. The jobs rolled in so many of 
them I had to increase my staff of two to eight in order to handle 
them, and then I had to take still more jobs to pay the larger staff. 
The highest studio in the world was fast becoming the highest 
squirrel cage in the world. 

In the reception room of my studio I had a lovely rug of an 
unusual raspberry shade, which Vassos had done some little 
searching to find. For days at a time it disappeared from sight 
under protecting newspapers and inroads of whatever product 
I happened to be photographing at the time. 

On one occasion this was chewing gum, tens of thousands 
of slabs. While doing this job I could not restrain frequent 
glances over my shoulder to make sure my mother was not 
walking in the door. Actually, I knew very well that she was at 
her home in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. In my childhood my 
mother had been so strongly anti-chewing gum that my sister 
Ruth and I had to park our gum on a telegraph pole a block away 
from home to be picked up next morning on the way to school. 
Even in my lofty penthouse the sense of disobedience remained. 

In rapid tempo the chewing gum was elbowed out by an im- 
pressive collection of star sapphires. Then there was an invasion 
of cosmetics with twelve hand models reaching their twenty-four 
flawless hands toward the nail polishes. Nail polish gave way to 
an enormous medieval lace tablecloth. Kings and popes had eaten 
from it. This priceless dining cloth was followed by Chester- 
fieldssmoking was good for you in those days. The cigarettes 
bowed out to Oscar of the Waldorf, who came with a strawberry 
mousse in dry ice, followed closely by the food editor and her 
helpers from the Ladies' Home Journal, for whom I was photo- 
graphing the strawberry mousse in color. 

Photographing anything so perishable as ice cream in color, 
in the early '305, was an heroic undertaking because of the in- 
terminably long exposures, which involved making three sepa- 
rate color plates representing the three primary colors to be 
matched up later. The equipment was crude, the lack of uni- 
formity in the color emulsions was maddening, the awkward 
glass color plates were so slow that the only answer was to pour 



SKYSCRAPERS AND ADVERTISING 85 

on more and more light and hope for the best. Few dishes of ice 
cream would stand up under such treatment. I was not too badly 
off with a great cumbersome specially built camera, nicknamed 
the Queen Mary, which had the advantage of exposing three 
color plates simultaneously. Oscar Graubner, my excellent dark- 
room technician, calculated that the mousse needed a full ninety- 
second exposure, even with all our blazing floodlights. A pat 
on the mousse by Oscar of the Waldorf, a pat on the wing of a 
Vent Lite by Oscar of the Bourke- White Studio and we were 
off. We sat on the floor in an anxious semicircle. I held the shutter 
control in my hand as I counted off the lagging seconds. I could 
see the mousse softening, but it was giving me all it had. On the 
eighty-fifth second, like an Alpine avalanche, it slid majestically 
downward, collapsing in rivers of pinkest foam. I had pushed 
the trigger just quickly enough to catch the image of the mousse 
intact with a little blur that hint of movement which has be- 
came so popular in recent years. When it was all over, the ladies 
of the Ladies' Home Journal said, "Dear Miss Bourke- White, 
if we had only known of the temperature difficulty, we could 
just as well have photographed a pudding! " 

I often thought that foods I photographed worked as hard as 
any living models I ever saw. There were the artistic grapes 
which had been O.K.'d as a background and therefore mustn't 
be removed until we got an O.K. on the new foreground. The 
grapes deteriorated from back to front, fortunately. While we 
made our shots, we had to use a fan to keep the clouds of fruit 
flies out of the pictures. Then there was the regal lobster who 
overstayed his welcome, but the less said of him the better. 

The food pictures, whatever their individual difficulties may 
have been, were always on the credit side of my personal ledger. 
I was getting valuable experience with color at its awkward age. 
Instead of making garish imitations of nature, which I have always 
felt was a mistaken use of the medium, I was working in a situa- 
tion where I had the greatest freedom of arrangement. This gave 
me a chance to think first in terms of abstract color pattern and 
then build my composition with color in the front of my mind. 
From the start, I felt that color photography was a separate 
medium, as different from black-and-white photographs as movies 
are from stills. It ought not to be used as a fancier edition of some 



86 SKYSCRAPERS AND ADVERTISING 

snapshot that could be taken as well in black and white. Color 
should be used in its own creative way to realize the full poten- 
tials of the medium, and now after a quarter of a century these 
potentials are greater than any of us could have foreseen. 

I have often wondered what readers of the women's magazines 
would think if they knew how the foods pictured in glowing 
color were handled, squeezed, patted into shape, glued, propped 
up, mauled, varnished. The greatest expert at this was Fanny 
Herrick at the Delineator, for which I did a monthly food page 
in color until the magazine folded, shortly after Life began. 
Whatever the photographer's eccentric needs, she could fill them 
with artistry and, best of all, durability. When Fanny went out 
of her way to prepare something particularly delicate with a 
frothy topping like a feather in lightness, you could bet your 
bottom dollar that if you walked over and touched it, you would 
find it approached the strength of concrete. Fanny's foods wore 
well. So did Fanny. I just loved her. 

Only once can I recall an occasion when I or anyone else 
wanted to eat the food I photographed. I had spent the morning 
in New Jersey, trying out the very first airplane camera of my 
life. The pilot took me on a dry run with several aircraft and 
decided I would do best from an open cockpit. This was the 
first open cockpit I ever shot pictures from and, I am thankful 
to say, the last. I stood erect on the back seat, roped to the seat 
frame and chassis, with the windstream searing me through the 
middle. When we landed I could hardly stand. Trembling with 
fatigue, I got into a taxi and headed toward New York. I was 
already late and dared not take time to eat. When I arrived at 
the Delineator, I found our subject a big fish was already laid 
out and waiting for me to give decisions on final details. The 
fish reposed in splendor, encircled by rings within rings of tasty 
tidbits. My eyes could move no farther than the pearly, pebble- 
sized potatoes dotted with parsley, glistening with melting butter, 
which this time were warm and real. The sight made me so 
hungry I couldn't think of it as a picture. I couldn't even answer 
people's questions about what to do until somebody asked, "Miss 
Bourke- White, we held up on these lemon slices because we felt 
that both the little potatoes and the lemon touches would be too 
much. It should be one or the other. Which do you prefer?" 



SKYSCRAPERS AND ADVERTISING 87 

"Oh, certainly use the lemon slices. We need that hint of 
yellow," and I scooped up all the little potatoes and gobbled 
them down. 

I attached great importance to appropriate costumes for each 
many-faceted day, for I loved clothes. But sometimes changing 
took a little figuring out, as on the day when I photographed 
the George Washington Bridge. This was part of a picture story 
for Fortune on the Port of New York. The bridge was under 
construction then and breathtakingly beautiful, with no floor 
yet built but with the gossamerlike cables gracefully strung from 
bank to bank. I had been waiting for just this phase of the con- 
struction, and it was my bad luck that it came in midwinter on 
a zero day and also when I had an engagement at the French 
Consulate for lunch. To the windswept bank of the Hudson I 
brought everything I thought I would need for both engage- 
ments. I spent the morning perched high over the ice-flecked 
Hudson River on the mighty cables, which, on closer acquaint- 
ance, I found to be not gossamer at all but as thick as tree trunks. 
Just before noon I descended and hopped into a cab. Having 
requested the driver to keep eyes front, I changed my clothes 
as we drove to the French Consulate and arrived comfortably 
in time for the pate de foie gras which opened the feast. 

With each new advertising assignment, it seemed that the 
props grew bigger and bulkier until it became imperative that I 
get more floor space. It would not have occurred to me to look 
lower than a penthouse. Finally I discovered, at 521 Fifth Ave- 
nue, one of those odd and beautiful floors that sometimes exist 
on top of skyscrapers, housing a bit of machinery and never 
meant for a tenant. Its only disadvantage was that it was above 
the elevators, and to get to it you had to climb a steep flight of 
stairs. But once you were up there, it was gorgeous. Though it 
was a mere forty stories high instead of sixty-one, as my Chrysler 
Building penthouse had been, it was still the highest studio of its 
kind in the city and probably in the world. I marvel that this 
seemed so important to me then and so unimportant later. Again 
John Vassos decorated my studio, simply and colorfully, keeping 
the dramatic sweep of the place. The lofty ceiling, which soared 
overall at a height of 20 or 30 feet, Vassos did in a wonderful 
dark blue which became shadowy and mysterious, or vibrant 



88 SKYSCRAPERS AND ADVERTISING 

with light, as the time of day moved onward. It had tall slender 
cathedral windows and even an outside terrace to accommodate 
the alligators. 

I was living a sort of double life now. As always, half of my 
time each year went to Fortune through an arrangement which 
I had asked for from the very beginning so I could do other 
jobs, and which had worked out most satisfactorily for both 
Fortune and myself. During the other half of the year I wrestled 
my way through the mad world of advertising. I was always glad 
when Fortune's time rolled around again. 

Fortune assignments always had some new viewpoint and were 
exciting to do. They made refreshing interludes for me between 
the sieges of advertising. When Fortune was launched in 1930, 
many people said the magazine could last only two years. Why 
they always picked two years I do not know. The reason they 
gave was that by then all the industries would be covered and 
there would be nothing new left to photograph. After much 
more than two years, there was plainly no danger of running 
out of subjects for Fortune stories. And in a deeply personal way 
I knew I would never run out of subjects that interested me while 
on this earth. I would always have zest for as much of our 
dramatic world as I could place within lens reach. 

Although subjects for Fortune had not run out, after two 
years, time had run out for Fortune's first editor. Somehow the 
enchantment of living had faded for Parker Lloyd-Smith. No one 
knows why on a humid September morning, just before sunrise, 
Parker should have jumped from his fifth-floor apartment win- 
dow, leaving only a cryptic note: "My Lady Mother It's so 
hot. . . ." What unbearable problem was he escaping from? He 
was brilliant, young, with an independent fortune, and a fascinat- 
ing job. After pouring his singular talent into the creation of the 
magazine, did he lose interest when his child began to walk, run, 
need more editors, become more impersonal? His accomplish- 
ments had seemed so perfect up to now, perhaps it was hard for 
him to face any aging, any flaw in the perfection. 

Years later, a close colleague on Fortune told me she believed 
he had been planning his suicide for months. He was taking 
flying lessons, somewhat uncommon in those days of 1931, and, 
still more uncommon, he was buying his own plane. Was he pre- 



SKYSCRAPERS AND ADVERTISING 89 

paring his last great flight out over the ocean, pressing on as far 
as his plane would go until he lost himself in sky and sea? No 
one knows. 

I heard the news in Geneva, where I was visiting the League 
of Nations. I could hardly believe it then, and after all these 
years, I hardly believe it now. To this day, when some droll 
little thing takes place, peppered with a special whimsy, I look 
around for Parker to share it with, and miss him afresh. 



9 



CHAPTER VII 



THE COUNTRY 
OF THE DAY 
AFTER 
TOMORROW 



IN THE EARLY thirties, when Fortune was in 
its infancy, the land of tantalizing mystery was Russia. No for- 
eign photographers had been allowed across Russian borders to 
take a direct look at what was going on under the Soviet Five- 
Year Plan. Foreign engineering consultants mostly Americans- 
came and went with comparative freedom. But for the profes- 
sional photographer from the outside world, it was a closed 
country. Nothing attracts me like a closed door. I cannot let my 
camera rest until I have pried it open, and I wanted to be first. 

With my enthusiasm for the machine as an object of beauty, 
I felt the story of a nation trying to industrialize almost over- 
night was just cut out for me. Peasants who had been taken 
from the plow and put on the punch press how did they man- 
age this jump of centuries? Although my approach was non- 
technical, I had been in factories enough to appreciate that indus- 
try has a history machines are developed and men grow along 
with them. Here was a unique opportunity to see a country in 
transition between a medieval past and an industrialized future. 

No one could have known less about Russia politically than 
I knew or cared less. To me, politics was colorless beside the 

Iron fuddler at Red October Rolling Mill, Stalingrad, V.S.S.R., 1930. 



92 THE COUNTRY OF THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW 

drama of the machine. It was only much later that I discovered 
that politics could be an absorbing subject, with a profound effect 
on human destiny. 

The person most helpful in giving me background on Russia 
was Cleveland's live-wire city manager, Dan Morgan. From him 
I got some conception of the tremendous range of heavy indus- 
try being built with the technical assistance of American firms. 
There was virtually a little Cleveland within Soviet borders. 
Warner & Swasey and Foote-Burt were tooling up Stalingrad. 
Two of Cleveland's leading construction companies, McKee and 
Austin, built some of the biggest installations in the Soviet Union 
from steel mills in Siberia to oil refineries on the Black Sea. 

Detroit, too, was prominently represented by Ford; Schenec- 
tady by General Electric. Ford's industrial architect, Albert 
Kahn, was laying out the entire group of factory buildings for 
Stalingrad, now Volgograd. The Newport News Shipbuilding 
Company was furnishing what were then the world's largest 
hydroturbines for Dnieprostroi, and the huge Dnieper Dam was 
erected under the experienced direction of Col. Hugh L. Cooper, 
builder of America's Muscle Shoals. 

These great American builders and their staffs of engineers 
and planners were not, of course, dangerous Reds, or even 
fellow travelers. They were not working for ideological or 
propaganda purposes, but strictly for business reasons or as the 
Marxists might have said"the profit motive." The role played 
by American industrialists in building up the Soviet giant cannot 
be overestimated. 

The idea of running photographs of the sprouting industries 
of the U.S.S.R. intrigued Fortune's editors, but they had grave 
doubts whether I could get anything done. They were sending 
me to Germany to take pictures of industry, and I decided to 
push on from there. I had applied for a Russian visa six months 
earlier at Intourist, the Soviet travel agency in New York. In 
Berlin, I was puzzled when I discovered my visa was not waiting 
for me, because the Intourist official had been so enthusiastic 
about my industrial photographs. "Your pictures will be your 
passport," he kept repeating. 

Not only was there no visa at the Soviet Embassy in Berlin, 
but the officials there had never heard of my grand plan to 



THE COUNTRY OF THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW 93 

chronicle Soviet industry, or of me either. I opened up the ever- 
present portfolio of my industrial work and was told again my 
pictures would be my passport. The Embassy officials dismissed 
me courteously with instructions to return the day after to- 
morrow. I returned the day after tomorrow and continued to do 
so for five and a half weeks. 

I woke up before dawn one morning and restlessly started 
walking from the Hotel Adlon past the Brandenburg Gate and 
up Unter den Linden. As I passed under the window of the 
Soviet Embassy, I heard a whistle over my head. I looked up, and 
there, at the window, stood the Soviet consul. He was waving a 
piece of paper. It was the telegram granting my visa. 

I bought a cheap trunk and filled it with canned food. I had 
been warned that if I traveled off the beaten path, I would find 
near famine conditions. That night I left for Moscow. 

During my trips in the early thirties and I made three brief 
ones Russia was always the land of the Day After Tomorrow. 
I suppose the underlying cause for the many bureaucratic delays 
was fear of taking responsibility. The confusion was deepened 
by a novel experiment designed to get rid of bourgeois Sunday. 
People took their "day of rest" every five days, not on the same 
day but staggered. The purpose was to make work continuous. 
The result was highly discontinuous. It seemed a puzzle ingeni- 
ously designed so that the man you wanted to see on any par- 
ticular day was away enjoying his day of rest. I have never 
known anything since to compare in sheer difficulty with my 
assignments in Russia: the baffling postponements, the mysterious 
absence of reasons. It was a valuable experience, and I am glad 
to have had it so early in my work. Russia was a lesson in 
patience. 

Even getting to one of these evaporating appointments was a 
feat. Taxis were rare and apt to break down on the way. Next 
choice was a droshky, a carriage so worn it seemed a breath 
would blow it to pieces. You were at the mercy of the bearded 
driver who might dump you out halfway to your destitution 
if he thought his horse was tired. The next possibility was to get 
on a streetcar if you could get the conductor to stop when it 
was literally dripping with human beings. 

I remember a day when my interpreter and I squeezed into 



94 THE COUNTRY OF THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW 

one of these bursting streetcars. The conductor held out her hand 
for our fare: "Ten kopecks.' 7 

"We do not have change," said my interpreter. "But here's a 
ruble." 

"But I cannot take the ruble. I cannot take tips. It's against 
the law." 

"What shall we do? We have no kopecks." 

"Get off the car." The conductor stopped the car in the 
middle of the crowded street, and in true Russian fashion, the 
passengers discussed our dilemma. 

While the debate raged, streetcars halted, traffic slowed to a 
standstill. Finally, the passengers rose unanimously to our sup- 
port. We could stay on the car. We could keep our ruble. The 
car started and the blocked traffic rolled into motion again. 

With all the absurdities, there was a quality about the people 
I can only call exasperating charm. On my visits to the various 
commissars, I was always received hospitably. Inevitably, I was 
told two things: one was to return the day after tomorrow; the 
other was that my pictures would be my passport. Yet I was 
fortunate in having something as tangible as my pictures of 
American steel mills, factories and refineries to show what I 
wanted to do photographically in the Soviet Union. I began 
getting very limited permission to take pictures in and around 
Moscow. On alternate days, I did what little work I could, and 
on the Days After Tomorrow, I visited the Commissariats of 
Heavy Industry and Railroads, pressing for a big tour with 
proper authority to travel and take pictures. 

During these visits, scores of admiring Russians crowded in 
to examine minutely my pictures of American factories, while 
I slipped in reminders that there were many beautiful pictures 
to be taken in Soviet factories. I had come for only a few weeks, 
and already half of my time had trickled uselessly away. 

"Yes," the officials would say. "The Amerikanka is right. The 
great Lenin said, 'Time is our most precious possession.' " 

I don't know whether it was the counsel of the deceased Lenin 
that took effect or my persistence, but finally the Day After 
Tomorrow really came, and I set out to tour the industrial 
centers with a highly competent young girl interpreter, my 
trunk of food, my bulky camera cases, a sheaf of permits and, 
most important, that portfolio of photographs that indeed was 



THE COUNTRY OF THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW 95 

to be my passport. The pictures soon became dog-eared and 
battered, but they opened many doors. 

Everywhere I traveled, I heard about the Amerikanskoe tempo. 
It was the watchword of the hour, the ultimate in praise. In 
Stalingrad, particularly where the factories were modeled after 
Ford in Detroit, the workers adored the conveyor belt as a sym- 
bol of the Amerikanskoe tempo. The workers who gathered in 
crowds made suggestions, smoked cigarettes, eulogized the con- 
veyor, broke into oratory at the very sight of it, did everything 
but run it. 

At Dnieprostroi, during the first month, half of the locomotive 
cranes were busy picking up the other half that had broken 
down on the job. The workmen were like children playing with 
new toys. In the power installations, they acted as though throw- 
ing on a new generator was like turning on an electric fan. The 
endless meetings to decide whether or not to use a new tool 
exasperated the American technicians; tools were hard to get. 
The tractor was the object of special reverence, but still the 
tractor operators ran them up and down the fields like racing 
cars until they broke down. 

Machine worship was everywhere; it permeated even the 
classic Russian ballet. Little girls with gear wheels in gold or 
silver painted on their chests danced Machine Dances. The people 
were worshiping at new shrines with the fervor of religious 
zealots. It was as though they needed to replace their religion 
which was being taken away from them step by step. They 
looked on the coming of the machine as their Saviour; it was the 
instrument of their deliverance. 

Anyone who was in Russia during this phase of the industrial 
program was entitled to the gravest doubts that anything could 
be made of such a mess. But after one year's interval, on a return 
trip to do six illustrated articles for the Sunday New York- Times 
Magazine, I found significant changes. The workmen were be- 
ginning to operate the machines instead of marveling over them; 
the conveyor belts moved. There was nothing yet to match our 
familiar American scene of the production line, with rows of men 
on each side popping nuts and bolts into place along a steadily 
moving conveyor. Still there was less oratory, and more tending 
to business. Tractors were treated less like fiery steeds and more 
like instruments of agriculture. 



96 THE COUNTRY OF THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW 

Of course, people who want to learn can move mountains. This 
is true of nations as well as individuals. But with the Russians 
it was especially dramatic because the goals were so high. The 
Soviets were still a long way from the Amerikanskoe tempo, 
but with the piatiletka, the Five- Year Plan, Russia was entering 
a technological race, with the United States as the principal 
contender. 

"The capitalist world is crumbling" was a convincing slogan 
if you had never been taught anything else. A great rash of 
posters broke out illustrating this theme. My favorite poster 
showed a plump capitalist in a top hat, tumbling through space 
in the midst of falling bricks from a collapsing skyscraper. I took 
it home and hung it in my skyscraper studio as a grim warning 
to my capitalist friends. It bore the slogan: "The Five- Year Plan 
is driving the coffin nails of World Capitalism." 

Great prestige was attached to literacy. In the Ural Mountains, 
where the Magneto-Gorsk steel mills were under construction, 
I saw night classes in reading and writing held in the nearby vil- 
lages. The pupils were middle-aged peasants; the teachers, high- 
school girls. 

It is sad that with the coining of literacy, it was thought 
necessary to curb freedom of speech and to restrict freedom of 
ideas. The threat of ruthless force is a sorry platform for a new 
nation. 

On one of my Russian trips, I made a movie-or tried to. 
Having brought in the first photographs to be made by a non- 
Soviet citizen, I was ambitious to do the same with a newsreel 
or travelogue. Movies were my latest passion. I had been experi- 
menting with simple patterns in industry, which I hoped would 
result in a new kind of educational movie "short." Eastman 
Kodak had plans for an educational department and had shown 
a good deal of interest in my experiments. They generously gave 
me free film for this and the work in Russia. 

The movies were not very good. Fortunately Eastman Kodak 
was able to salvage something it could use in its school program 
I did all the wrong things: used big cameras, big films, big tri- 
pods I composed each scene with lengthy care and took innu- 
merable static views, forgetting that the important word in 
motion pictures is motion. 



THE COUNTRY OF THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW 97 

Having concentrated on industry in my earlier trips to the 
U.S.S.R., I decided this time to see the countryside and the 
peasants who lived on the land. I went south to the mountainous 
state of Georgia, which was the last of the major republics to 
come into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and whose 
people are independent and proud. 

The fiery Georgians are large-eyed and handsome, and sing 
and joke more often than their countrymen to the north. They 
are often at emotional swords' points with the sterner northern 
Russians and consider themselves superior. They are immensely 
hospitable. In Tiflis, the President of Georgia, Gherman Andre- 
evich Magalablishvili, and his seven commissars helped me arrange 
my trip and at the last minute decided to go with me. Several 
of the commissars had studied abroad and spoke French and 
German, The President was not an admirer of Stalin, although 
Stalin, too, was a Georgian. I later learned that he was "liqui- 
dated" in the notorious purges of 1938. 

The President and his party took me on a horseback trip 
through the southern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains. My 
equipment was strapped on a couple of horses. When I was 
shooting, the equipment I needed most seemed always to be 
strapped to the wrong horse. At night we slept in caves. If we 
ran short of food, the President ordered the peasants to bring a 
live sheep. They cut off its head on a stone and roasted the meat 
over a fire. We ate it in delectable chunks. As we rode through 
the mountains, we passed little villages where the peasants sat 
on the roofs of their homes and sang to us. Their favorite song, 
and mine, was one they have been singing for many years. The 
words of the chorus are: 

Mama, I want to go to America 
To bring back an American girl 
Who 'will come and sit beside you. 

It was unprecedented for them to have an American girl to 
sing it to, and this was cause for celebration. At each village, 
we dismounted and sang the song over the excellent local wine. 
In the Caucasus Mountains, you drink from a pointed wine horn 
which must be drained at one draft. Then you tip the final drop 
out on your thumbnail to prove you have drunk it all. Since I 




Dnieper Dam construction, first Five-Year Plan, 75/50. In the fore- 
ground is chief consulting engineer. Col Hugh L. Cooper. 



A blast furnace under construction in the Ural Mountains as part of 
the first five-Year Plan, t^^Magneto-Gorsk, U.S.S.R. 



I0 THE COUNTRY OF THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW 

was their guest, they toasted me repeatedly. Each one had to 
drink only the toast he made, but courtesy demanded that I gulp 
down a hornful on every toast. This was no small feat since they 
toasted not only me but my parents and grandparents and 
cousins and uncles and the husband they hoped I would have. 

By the merest chance, I happened to hear of Stalin's birthplace. 
In those days, the Soviets had not yet awakened to the high 
publicity value of building up their leaders as personages. Interest 
in family details was discouraged. I dared not appear too anxious. 
I knew the village of Didi-Lilo would make wonderful travelogue 
material, and I was sure it was a subject never taken before. The 
village was a small one, on the slope of a hill, and crammed full 
of Dzhugashvilis, Stalin's family name. Later, I was to hear that 
a bitter rivalry existed between Didi-Lilo and nearby Gori, both 
claiming to be Stalin's birthplace. 

I was shown the mud hut where my guides told me little 
Josef, or Zozo, as his mother called him, was born. It was little 
more than a potato cellar, half underground, with an earth floor 
and a chink in the roof to let out the smoke. I met the sheriff 
who, years before, had arrested Stalin's father, a cobbler, for not 
paying his taxes. Stalin's mother had moved to Tiflis, but his 
great-aunt greeted me. With her bent shoulders and voluminous 
gray wool scarves wrapped around her head and neck, she looked 
like some great land turtle about to tuck itself into its shell. While 
I photographed the village, she prepared a meal of cereal and 
fat lamb scattered with pomegranate seeds. Stalin's relatives 
joined in the feast, the men seated cross-legged with me on the 
floor, and by Georgian custom, the women relatives standing 
near and serving. 

True to form in the Dzhugashvilis' village, I was subjected 
to a drinking bout. Although the great-aunt did not sit with us, 
she stood and drank with us. At the end of the meal, she pro- 
posed a threefold toast: first, to their guest from across the seas; 
second, to their illustrious relative who had departed to Moscow; 
and third, to herself, because she was the oldest member of the 
party and needed the toast the most. 

After all the joggling on horseback, my cameras were getting 
very balky, and by the time I reached Tiflis, where Stalin's 
mother was living, I had to coax and wheedle them to work. 
Ekaterina Dzhugashvili lived in a palace. The great rambling 




Stalin's great-aunt, photographed in Didi-Lilo, 1932. 



I02 THE COUNTRY OF THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW 

building in the middle of a garden was largely taken up by of- 
fices, but the old lady was given an apartment of two small 
rooms on the ground floor. The apartment was curtained in lace; 
there were antimacassars on the chairs, and small lace pillows 
were piled neatly on the bed. The walls were covered with pic- 
tures of Stalin, photographs and cartoons. Stalin's mother had 
never quite understood what her son's job was. She had wanted 
him to become a priest and had sent him to study with the 
Jesuits. She was deeply hurt when he broke away to join the 
revolutionary movement, and began robbing post offices to 
further his revolutionary work. 

Stalin's mother was bewildered at being photographed and 
insisted on changing her clothes. She got into a long black dress 
and scarf, typical Georgian women's attire, black robe and bon- 
net edged with white lace. Where had I come from? She had 
heard of America, but she didn't know where it was. We went 
out into the garden in the fading light, and I tried to photograph 
her coming down a long flight of steps. There was scarcely a ray 
of daylight left. And as I cranked away while she did her little 
sequence, my movie camera leaped open and coils of Stalin's 
mother came out on the ground. I barely managed an abbreviated 
retake before sundown. 

When I reached Berlin, on my way home, transatlantic phone 
calls started coming from New York. A transatlantic call was a 
great rarity in those days. The first call was from Fox-Movie- 
tone, offering to buy my film "sight unseen." This was followed 
by similar off ers from other film companies. I should have placed 
it then and there, while the excitement was running high. But no, 
I was a perfectionist. I was going to supervise the cutting and 
editing of the film myself; then I would see about marketing it. 

After I arrived home, executives of all the major companies 
phoned me frequently to find out when I would be ready to 
show my film. After a while just their secretaries phoned me. 
Finally, there were no more calls. The news interest had faded. 
I was left with my films and my bills. I had been hiring expensive 
help, professional film cutters and editors, each one supposed to 
be that "wonder boy" who could give a touch of greatness to any 
film footage. I could afford it no longer. I put the films back 
in their round tin boxes and decided to write them off as a loss. 

Ekaterma Dzbugashvili, mother of Josef Stalin, photographed in Tiflis, 1932, 



104 THE COUNTRY OF THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW 

Then, the wheels of history turned. The U.S. recognized the 
U.S.S.R. There was a sudden wave of interest in Russia. The 
motion-picture companies began calling again. When a subsidiary 
of R-K-O made an offer, I jumped at it without delay. The film 
was made into two shorts called Eyes on Russia and Red Repub- 
lic. My movie fever had burned itself out. I have never touched 
a motion-picture camera from that day to this. 

Several years afterward, a newspaperman who is a friend of 
mine was traveling in the interior of Brazil. He walked into a 
tiny movie theater, and on the screen was my Russian film. He 
told me that the film had been broken and spliced so often, and 
the movements were so jerky, that he expected to see Stalin's 
great-aunt shinny up a tree and have a custard pie thrown down 
her decolletage. 



io 5 



CHAPTER VIII 



MOTHER 



o 



OHORTLY after my ill-starred experiment with 
motion pictures, I suffered a great personal loss which drove any 
lesser troubles from my mind. 

It was hard to imagine Mother ever would die. She was so vital 
and buoyant, so full of plans and interesting ideas. Mother taught 
herself Braille and worked with blind students to keep occupied 
with something useful after her children were grown. She took 
a teaching position in Watertown at the Massachusetts School 
for the Blind, Perkins Institution, where she was much loved. I 
can still hear her telling me about the blind children, "It's so im- 
portant to arouse their curiosity, Margaret." Being a born 
teacher, Mother was deeply concerned about the tendency of 
the blind to develop an overplacidity in the face of their great 
tragedy. 

As if this work were not enough for a woman over sixty, she 
began going to summer school, sometimes to the University of 
Chicago and sometimes to Columbia University, where she 
studied child psychology and the psychology of the blind. 

I remember one summer when the heat was excessive. Wor- 
ried, I phoned her at Columbia, and learned she was taking a 
swimming lesson. "Don't worry about me, Margaret," she said. 
"Today I've been closer to heaven than I ever expected to be. I 
floated on my back for the first time." 

Another summer when Mother came to New York to attend 
Columbia, I was in the midst of a job for Eastern Air Lines. 
Mother had never been in an airplane, and she was as eager as 
always to experience something new. For her first flight she 



106 MOTHER 



should have something special, and this particular airplane job 
was just the thing. 

Eastern Air Lines had hired me to photograph their airplanes 
over each main city on the route. I had done Miami and New 
Orleans on the Southern run and was just then working over 
New York. It was a lovely kind of photography. I flew, 
strapped into a small plane, in close formation with one of the 
big passenger planes. My pilot flew me over it, under and around 
it, to get die effect of the big plane looming large in the fore- 
ground with the skyscrapers below. Where there would nor- 
mally be passengers in the big plane, I was inviting a number of 
my friends to fill up the window spaces. They were thrilled at 
this rare opportunity to look down on New York in those 
years, the middle thirties, the regular passenger flights did not go 
directly over the city, 

For Mother, this flight was especially appropriate. As a born 
New Yorker, she would be looking down on the land of her 
childhood, in lower New York-the old ninth ward. She would 
be seeing it from a viewpoint she never could have dreamed of 
as a child. While I was circling over the city to get various ef- 
fects of brilliance and shadow, Mother would be able to look 
down into the deep canyons and try to pick out the place where 
she was born. 

The arrangements were made. Next day she would be regis- 
tering at the University, and the day following we would fly. 
Mother went to Columbia to register as planned. In a certain 
seminar for which she enrolled, the class included many friends 
from former years who had special affection for her. Registra- 
tion over, Mother rose to her feet and asked to be excused from 
her first day of class, "because my daughter is going to take me 
for my first airplane flight." Then her heart failed her and she 
fell to the floor, unconscious, and without regaining conscious- 
ness, she died two days later. 

I shall always be grateful that she was among friends, so that 
I had this way of knowing she did not suffer. I believe if Mother 
had had to select the way she should go, she would have chosen 
some such way as this-eyes looking forward to an ever-expand- 
ing horizon, exploring still, even in the last conscious moment 
of her life. 



i oy 



CHAPTER IX 



ASSIGNMENT 
TO THE 
DUST BOWL 



STORY which fortune sent me out to 
cover was in a sphere quite new to me and left a very deep im- 
pression on me. This was the great drought of 1934. Word of its 
severity came so suddenly, and the reports we had were so scanty, 
that Fortune editors didn't know exactly where the chief areas 
of the drought were. Omaha, Nebraska, seemed as good a start- 
ing point as any, since it was in the middle of the corn belt. I 
left on three hours' notice and on arrival in Omaha found that 
the drought extended over a vastly greater area than we had 
known when I was in New York. It ran from the Dakotas in 
the North to the Texas panhandle. I was working against a five- 
day deadline, and it was such an extensive area to cover that I 
chartered a plane to use for the whole story. 

My pilot was a barnstormer of the old school, who earned his 
livelihood by stunt flying at country fairs. His tiny two-seater 
was a plane of the old school, too how old I fortunately did not 
know until the job was done, when I learned the Curtiss Robin 
was considered extinct long before the drought reached Ne- 
braska. But luckily, unaware of this, I did not worry on the 
long hops except about such basic matters as choosing the right 
place and getting to it in time for the right photographic light, 
and keeping my film holders freshly loaded and ready for what- 
ever we might meet. The unloading, boxing and reloading was 

[OVERLEAF] Drought erosion, South Dakota^ 1934* 



r I0 ASSIGNMENT TO THE DUST BOWL 

an almost continuous process, which I had to do with my hands 
and films hidden from the light inside the big black changing 
bag I carried in my lap. Like woman's work it was never done, 
and I kept at it whenever we were aloft. The little Robin held 
up quite weU. Crash it finally did, but very gently and only after 
sundown of my last day. By then I had my pictures and my dis- 
turbing memories. 

I had never seen landscapes like those through which we flew. 
Blinding sun beating down on the withered land. Below us the 
ghostly patchwork of half-buried corn, and the rivers of sand 
which should have been free-running streams. Sinister spouts of 
sand wisping up, and then the sudden yellow gloom of curtains 
of fine-blown soil rising up and trembling in the air. Endless 
dun-colored acres, which should have been green with crops, 
carved into dry ripples by the aimless winds. 

I had never seen people caught helpless like this in total trag- 
edy. They had no defense. They had no plan. They were 
numbed like their own dumb animals, and many of these animals 
were choking and dying in drifting soil. I was deeply moved by 
the suffering I saw and touched particularly by the bewilder- 
ment of the farmers. I think this was the beginning of my aware- 
ness of people in a human, sympathetic sense as subjects for the 
camera and photographed against a wider canvas than I had per- 
ceived before. During the rapturous period when I was discover- 
ing the beauty of industrial shapes, people were only incidental 
to me, and in retrospect I believe I had not much feeling for 
them in my earlier work. But suddenly it was the people who 
counted. Here in the Dakotas with these farmers, I saw every- 
thing in a new light. How could I tell it all in pictures? Here 
were faces engraved with the very paralysis of despair. These 
were faces I could not pass by. 

It was very hard, after working with the drought and with the 
people who must weather it through, to return to the advertising 
world again and glorify that rubber doughnut on which the 
world rolled. The time was drawing near for another Satevepost 
tire ad, and up in the penthouse the Bourke- White Studio must 
dedicate itself afresh to the making of giant mud pies. 

Some readers may remember and if they do not, they need 
count k no great loss the tire ads of the early to middle thirties 



ASSIGNMENT TO THE DUST BOWL 1 1 I 

in which a Gargantuan tire track ran across two center pages, 
the imprint so big it looked like a road in itself. My assignment 
in making these was to capture the very soul of the tire, its foot- 
prints on the sands of time. But there were no timeless sands up 
in the penthouse, and ordinary sand would not stand up under 
the merciless spotlights. By kneading putty with clay and add- 
ing various other mysterious oily ingredients as well as a few 
handfuls of plebeian mud, the resourceful Oscar made a durable 
base for our miniature road. It was no reflection on the quality 
of Oscar's pungent dough that I found I could no longer sum- 
mon up any enthusiasm over the imprint of an idealized tire on 
a road of putty. My mind was on another road clogged with 
fine-blown topsoil and imprinted by the wind. 

While Oscar gave the dough a final kneading, I placed the 
last little touches toy automobiles to make the huge tire even 
huger by contrast, tiny roadside weeds tucked in to lend a note 
of freshness. At last all was ready. We had to work quickly now 
before the dough stiffened. Between us we rolled the mud pie 
into a long roadlike shape which caught and preserved the track 
of the tire. 

But not of any tire. Not of a real tire. Nothing so simple as 
that. To make the tire track pictures, I was supplied with a 
wooden dummy. This was hand-carved for me at considerable 
expense in the Akron factory. Its diamond tread was sculptured 
extra deep so that the photograph would show the crispest, most 
"convincing" tire track the nation's motorists had ever seen. 

But not for a moment must the track-making dummy be con- 
fused with the rubber dummy I was furnished when I made a 
picture of a tire. This, too, was hand-molded for me in the 
Akron factory and at even greater expense high in four figures, 
everybody said. This costly rubber gem was fatter than any tire 
you ever saw. The use of this special tire resulted from a curious 
rivalry which was running its course among the advertising agen- 
cies. It was based on the assumption that the fatter the tire the 
faster the public would run to buy it. When a competitor's ad 
appeared with a tire fatter than ours, the Akron factory built 
for me a still plumper model with of course a still smaller hole. 
The optimum in obesity would soon be reached. One more 
plumping up and there would be no hole left in the doughnut. 



1 1 2 ASSIGNMENT TO THE DUST BOWL 

Then a rising star in the advertising business made a coura- 
geous and revolutionary proposal. "Let's photograph a real tire/' 
he said. 

For me this was the turning point. The circle of madness was 
closing on itself. Rubber was chasing rubber around a vacuum. 
I longed to see the real world which lay beyond the real tire, 
where things did not have to look convincing, they just had to 
be true. I felt I could never again face a shiny automobile stuffed 
with vapid smiles. Never again could I build and rebuild the road 
that led nowhere. 

Then I had a dream. I still remember the mood of terror. Great 
unfriendly shapes were rushing toward me, threatening to crush 
me down. As they drew closer, I recognized them as the Buick 
cars I had been photographing. They were moving toward me 
in a menacing zigzag course, their giant hoods raised in jagged 
alarming shapes as though determined to swallow me. Run as 
fast as I could, I could not escape them. As they moved faster, I 
began to stumble, and as they towered over me, pushing me 
down, I woke up to find that I had fallen out of bed and was 
writhing on the floor with my back strained. I decided that if a 
mere dream could do this to me, the time had come to get out 
of this type of photography altogether. If I believed in piloting 
one's own life, then I should go ahead and pilot mine. Since 
photography was a craft I respected, let me treat it with respect. 
I made a resolution that from then on, for the rest of my life, I 
would undertake only those photographic assignments which I 
felt could be done in a creative and constructive way. 

Later that day the phone rang, and appropriately enough it 
was one of the advertising agencies. A new job had come up- 
a series of five pictures to be taken in color. Despite my re- 
solve, it was impossible not to feel some curiosity and I inquired 
about the fee. The fee was to be $1,000 a photograph. I had 
never received $1,000 for a single picture. I hesitated only a sec- 
ond. It all flooded back, the grotesque unreality, the grief. Why 
should I go through that again? I found it was not too hard to 
say, "No, thank you." I recommended another photographer 
who I thought could do the job well, and I hung up. 

Good. I knew now what I would not do, and it was time 
to figure out what I should do. The drought had been a power- 



ASSIGNMENT TO THE DUST BOWL 1 1 3 

ful eye-opener and had shown me that right here in my own 
country there were worlds about which I knew almost nothing. 
Fortune assignments had given me a magnificent introduction 
to all sorts of American people. But this time it was not the cross 
section of industry I wanted. Nor was it the sharp drama of 
agricultural crisis. It was less the magazine approach and more 
the book approach I was after. It was based on a great need to 
understand my fellow Americans better. I felt it should not be 
an assignment in the ordinary sense but should be as independent 
of any regular job as my steel mill pictures had been. 

What should be the theme, the spine, the unity? I did not 
consider myself a writer. I felt this book had to be a collabora- 
tion between the written word and the image on the celluloid. I 
needed an author. Yet curiously enough I gave very little 
thought to what kind of author. I knew it must be someone who 
was really in earnest about understanding America. But a good 
writer or a merely competent writer? A novelist or a nonfiction 
man? A famous author or an obscure one? To all these things 
I gave no thought, I simply hoped that I would find the right one. 

It seemed a miracle that within a week or two I should hear 
of an author in search of a photographer. He had a book project 
in mind in which he wanted to collaborate with a photographer. 
I gathered he had paid little attention to the possibility that there 
might be mediocre or gifted photographers in the world. He just 
wanted to find the right one someone with receptivity and an 
open mind, someone who would be as interested as he was in 
American people, everyday people. 

He was a writer whose work had extraordinary vitality, an 
almost savage power. He was the author of an exceedingly con- 
troversial book which had been adapted into an equally contro- 
versial play. Among the thousands who had seen the play or 
read the book were many who considered the characters exag- 
gerated, the situations overdrawn. The author wanted to do a 
book with pictures that would show the authenticity of the 
people and conditions about which he wrote. He wanted to take 
the camera to Tobacco Road. His name was Erskine CaldwelL 



CHAPTER X 



THE 

ROCKY ROAD 

TO 

TOBACCO ROAD 



I COULD HARDLY believe this large shy man with 
the enormous wrestler's shoulders and quiet coloring could be 
the fiery Mr. Caldwell. His eyes were the soft rinsed blue of 
well-worn blue jeans. His hair was carrot a subdued carrot. 
The backs of his hands were flecked with cinnamon freckles- 
cinnamon which had stood long on the kitchen shelf. His whole 
appearance suggested he was holding himself ready to step back 
at any moment and blend into the background, where he would 
remain, patient and invisible, until he had heard what he wanted 
to hear or experienced what he wanted to experience. Later I 
learned this was just what he had a special gift for doing. His 
voice matched his appearance. He spoke softly when he spoke 
at all. 

His seeming mildness and gentleness came as a surprise against 
the turbulence of his writings. Hoping to ease the painful bash- 
fulness I so strongly felt in him, I suggested it was cocktailtime. 
No, he seldom drank. This astonished me in the face of the 
Bacchanalian scenes in his books. 

I was equally surprised that, humorist though Caldwell was 
known to be, his tight-locked face suggested a man who rarely 



THE ROCKY ROAD TO TOBACCO ROAD 1 1 5 

laughs. I remember saying to myself, "This is going to be a 
colorless and completely impersonal type of man to work with." 
But I didn't care what he was like as long as we worked well 
together. I knew (and I knew I wasn't supposed to know) that 
he did not particularly like my photographs. Caldwell's literary 
agent thought I should hear the worst before I began, and he 
told me in secret. Well, that didn't bother me. There were a lot 
of my pictures I didn't like either the grinning models, for 
example. 

Another difficulty, and again I was informed in confidence, 
was that Mr. Caldwell did not like the idea of working with a 
woman. As a countermeasure he planned to hedge himself in 
with a second woman, a sort of literary secretary with whom he 
had worked in Hollywood. She would take shorthand notes of 
important conversations and keep identification data. (She was 
to go out of my life as abruptly as she came into it, and I no 
longer remember much about her except that we called her 
Sally.) If Erskine Caldwell had further misgivings about my 
pictures, or about my being a woman, which I could not change, 
he did not give voice to them. We set a date to start work on 
the book: June 11, 1936. 

June eleventh was five and a half months away. As meticu- 
lously as though we were leaving next week, Erskine Caldwell 
set the details. We would meet in Augusta, Georgia, early in the 
morning in the lobby of Augusta's best hotel. We would look 
over the Tobacco Road country and then circle through all the 
cotton-growing states in the Deep South. Mr. Caldwell ex- 
pressed the hope that the delay would not inconvenience me. He 
had several pieces of writing he wanted to finish before we 
started in on our book project. 

I, too, had things to finish and was thankful for the extra time. 
First I had the trifling item of a penthouse to get rid of. Then, 
I wanted to make my exit from the advertising business as 
orderly as possible. Though I had come to dislike advertising, 
there were a lot of people in advertising whom I liked very 
much indeed. Especially certain very talented art directors who 
had taught me a great deal, men such as the many-faceted Gor- 
don Aymar at J. Walter Thompson in the early '305 who had 
helped me over my earliest advertising hurdles. Then there was 



II( 5 THE ROCKY ROAD TO TOBACCO ROAD 

the imaginative, humorous and very knowing Chris Christensen 
of the Kudner Agency, with his tremendous experience in how 
to use photography. Chris had helped me out of many scrapes, 
even some occurring outside the work I did for him. Now that 
I had stepped out from under the perpetual crises in this turbu- 
lent world, I wanted to lay my advertising jobs to rest in seemly 
tranquility. 

The chores of disengaging myself from my immediate past 
were moving so smoothly that I found I had time to slip away 
to South America, to take pictures for an educational project 
on coif ee growing. I came back from this pleasant South Amer- 
ican interlude refreshed and with my spirit restored. 

I returned to spectacular news. We were going to have a new 
magazine. The idea had been germinating at Time and Fortune 
for some time, but now it was to be a reality. The new baby 
magazine had as yet no name, and its form was amorphous but 
the direction was clear. It would tell the news in pictures, but 
it would try to go much further than that by illuminating the 
background that made the news. 

I remember the excitement with which Ralph Ingersoll took 
me to "21" and told me about it. Ingersoll had been appointed 
Fortune's editor when Lloyd-Smith had left that post vacant by 
his suicide. In recent years, Ralph had become Harry Luce's 
chief assistant and this new magazine was his special charge. It 
was midafternoon, and "21" was almost empty and very quiet. 
We sat in a shadowy corner and both talked our heads off for 
the rest of the day. 

As when Fortune was in the planning stage, now again with 
this new unnamed magazine waiting to be born, I could almost 
feel the horizon widening and the great rush of wind sweeping 
in. This was the kind of magazine that could be anything we 
chose to make it. It should help interpret human situations by 
showing the larger world into which people fitted. It should 
show our developing, exploding, contrary world and translate it 
into pictures through those little black boxes we photographers 
had been carrying around for so long. The new magazine would 
absorb everything we photographers had to give: all the under- 
standing we were capable of, all the speed in working, the imag- 
ination, the good luck; everything we could bring to bear would 



THE ROCKY ROAD TO TOBACCO ROAD 1 1 7 

be swallowed up in every piece of work we did. And then, under 
the stress of it all, we would go out and push back those horizons 
even farther and come back with something new. I know noth- 
ing more satisfying than the opportunity to lay a few small 
foundation pebbles when a new magazine is about to be born. 
Lucky me, to have had this rewarding experience twice in my 
lifetime. 

This was a year unlike any year I have ever lived through. 
Perhaps the very fact of having made a definite choice in my 
own life had cleared the way so I could be receptive to the best 
of everything that came: the wonderful opportunity to work 
with Erskine Caldwell on the book and now this splendid ad- 
vent of a new magazine which would set its stamp deep on pho- 
tography, just as we photographers, to some extent, would set 
our stamp on the young, elastic publication. My cup was run- 
ning over. 

Publication date for the nameless magazine was still more than 
half a year away, but the office was a beehive. Experimental lay- 
outs were being drawn up all over the place, and all sorts of pic- 
tures were being swept into them. Pictures representing every- 
thing, in my case, even some photographs I had taken of the 
Olympic contenders including the great Jesse Owens and the 
equally great Glenn Cunningham under training as they prepared 
to go overseas for the Olympic games. I had taken them for a 
news agency, but this did not mean that I was trying to become 
a sports photographer. I remember Harry Luce's surprised ex- 
pression. 

"Why, Maggie, I see you are taking sports pictures now." 

It was fun for me to see them going into a kyout. 

The budding magazine took over my darkroom equipment: 
the sinks, the enlargers, the sharp cutting knives, the tanks, the 
dryers. These became the nucleus of its first photo lab. 

With me, in the great transfer, went four former members of 
my staff : Oscar Graubner, who for the first several years of the 
magazine was chief of the photo lab; Cornelius Wells, a youthful 
lab assistant; Thomas Styles, an excellent printer and enlarger; 
and, most important, my secretary, Peggy Smith Sargent, 
destined to rise high in the responsible and difficult job of film 



Ug THE ROCKY ROAD TO TOBACCO ROAD 

editor for Life. She had come from the Pacific coast, where she 
had worked for a Hollywood director, and was in New York 
looking for a job. I remember she came up to my studio dressed 
in a brilliant green suit. It was in the middle of one of our ad- 
vertising crises, with phones ringing on all sides, and no one had 
time to answer them. Nor did anyone have time to interview 
her. Miss Smith, which then she was, sat down to answer the 
phones, and from then on, one could hardly remember a time 
when she hadn't been there. 

And now, more than twenty-five years later, here she sits in 
her busy office, womanly and wise, like the high priestess of the 
world of celluloid negatives, which is what she really is. Through 
her magnifying glass, she peers into the gelatinized secrets of 
each inch-square patch of film at that crucial point where story 
line first meets picture. Thousands of films pass under her mag- 
nifying glass each week, and she selects for first printing the 
negatives she thinks are best, partly for their composition and 
beauty, but mainly through her insight into the personality of 
the individual photographer and his way of working. Usually I 
object when someone makes overmuch of men's work vs. 
women's work, for I think it is the excellence of the results 
which counts. And yet, in this case, truly this is a woman's job 
this supersensitive "feel" for what the photographer was after, 
even though he might be half the world away. There is only one 
such post on the magazine, and there is only one Peggy Smith 
Sargent. It gives me a satisfying sense of basic continuity when I 
think of my two key people initiating methods in the two key 
fields of this new magazineOscar with his film processing and 
Peggy with her film editing. Peggy generously gives me credit 
for having helped her learn to judge films and composition. 

When it took over the photographic equipment and the staff 
members from my studio, there was one thing the new magazine 
definitely did not want to acquire, and that was my pair of alliga- 
tors which had grown to be enormous and savage. The maga- 
zine promised to find homes for them, and in no time at all they 
had run down satisfactory housing arrangements in an experi- 
mental school. 

There were also some assorted turtles. Peggy, who had a per- 
sonal friendship with the turtles (they had lived under her desk 



THE ROCKY ROAD TO TOBACCO ROAD 

and bumped into her legs and taken lettuce leaves from her noon- 
day sandwiches), felt they were her responsibility. She investi- 
gated fountains and decided the one at the Loew's Lexington 
movie theater was the most suitable. She paced the grandiose 
lobby, waiting for a moment when all the people present seemed 
to be looking in another direction. The moment came, she hur- 
ried to the splendid fountain and slipped in her reptilian load. It 
was only later that she found out that all but one were land 
turtles. 

Finally the anonymous stranger to whom we had all pledged 
our allegiance found a name. There had been a number of sug- 
gestions, each one more cumbersome and unwieldy than the last. 
The closest candidate was "The March of Time," a name that 
had been used for Time Inc.'s newsreel. Publication date was 
drawing closer, and nobody had the ghost of an idea what to 
christen the infant soon to be born. Then, at just the perfect mo- 
ment in time and space, the venerable magazine of humor, Life, 
was about to declare itself out of business and was searching for 
a buyer. Harry Luce hesitated not one moment. He bought the 
magazine only for its name. The new magazine would be called 
Life. Of its staff only two were transferred to the new Life- 
Bernard Meurich, a C.P.A,, and his sister, Madeline Auerbach, 
whom all of us find charming even though it is she through 
whom we channel our expense accounts. 

In the midst of all this happy activity of preparation, one thing 
pleased me above all others, die fact that my new editors-to-be, 
Dan Longwell and John Billings, were much interested in the 
collaboration between Erskine Caldwell and myself and were 
enthusiastic about the possibility of running a spread of our book 
in the magazine. 

As with any change of direction in one's life, there were a 
thousand insistent last-minute details. I wanted so much to come 
to the book project with all the mind and ideas and serenity that 
I was capable of. A few more days would wind up everything. 
After all, it was nearly half a year ago that we had set our start- 
ing date. Maybe Mr. Caldwell also had extra things to do; I 
could always ask. 

Through his agent, I learned that Mr. Caldwell was already in 
Georgia, staying at his father's house in the tiny town of Wrens. 



I20 THE ROCKY ROAD TO TOBACCO ROAD 

I phoned Wrens and got Erskine Caldwell on the line. I ex- 
plained about the new magazine starting and all the circum- 
stances and said, if it was all the same to him, I would like to 
have one more week. Instead of the eleventh, could we begin, 
say, the eighteenth? The frozen wordlessness at the end of the 
line conveyed to me we might never begin at all. I could hardly 
believe it. Heavens, I had been planning toward this for all these 
months! Several long telephone conversations between the liter- 
ary agent in New York and Mr. CaldweU in Georgia verified my 
fears. It was all off. At least, it was off until some mythical time 
when it would be "more convenient" for all parties. I was sure 
that meant off, period. 

What had I done, what had I done! To me it seemed not un- 
reasonable that a date made half a year ahead, with a trip to an- 
other hemisphere in between, could be just a little bit elastic. To 
wreck the entire plan because I had requested postponement for 
a few days! But reasonable or unreasonable, that was not the 
point. To have our idea die stillborn, that I could not bear. With 
Erskine Caldwell already down South and just around the corner 
from Tobacco Road, there was nowhere unobtrusively to corner 
him for a little heart-to-heart chat. It was plain that I had worn 
out my welcome on the telephone. All means of communication 
seemed to have failed me. 

I did the only thing I could think of to do. It was a long 
chance, but I would try. First I must rule out of my mind every 
thought except of things I absolutely had to do before leaving 
New York. I went ahead just as I had planned. It took a tight- 
packed four days. I had kept clothes and cameras packed, and 
when my chores were done, I jumped on the plane at midnight. 

The hot sun was rising as we landed at Augusta, Georgia. I 
checked into the shiny, newly varnished "best" hotel and found, 
on inquiry, that Wrens was six miles away. Over my breakfast I 
composed a letter as quiet in tone as I could make it. I had come 
in the hope we could reconsider. I so wanted to start our im- 
portant work with the slate wiped clean so that I could give my 
entire attention to this project of ours. Everything was in order 
now. Summer would be without interruption. I hoped he would 
believe me and see that I was deeply sincere in wanting to do 
the book and do it as well as it could possibly be done. I added 



THE ROCKY ROAD TO TOBACCO ROAD 121 

that I would be at the hotel in case he wanted to send me a 
message. 

I tried unsuccessfully to get a Western Union messenger. The 
one mail delivery a day did not leave until afternoon, and I 
wanted Mr. Caldwell to get my note early in the day. I finally 
secured the personal services of a young lad who swept out the 
post office. The idea of going on his bicycle to deliver the letter 
in exchange for five dollars seemed fine to him, as it did to me, 
and I sat on the porch of the hotel watching him pedal furiously 
away until he disappeared in his own trailing plume of dust. 

It was still not quite eight o'clock. The day dragged on. There 
were dull-looking movies, but I dared not leave the hotel to go 
to them. Normally I love walking down Main Street in a town 
where I have never been before, window-shopping and strolling 
around the drugstore. But today I dared not take my eyes off 
the telephone operator at the hotel desk. I thought I would never 
escape this day, which showed no sign of ending. At six o'clock 
in the evening, a large figure in a loose blue jacket came into the 
lobby. His face was flushed with sun and shyness. We went into 
the coffee shop, sat down at the counter and ordered hot coffee. 
While we waited to be served, Erskine Caldwell looked quietly 
down at his hands. We drank our coffee in wordless communi- 
cation. When the last drop was drained, Erskine turned to me 
and smiled. 

"That was a big argument, wasn't it?" 

I nodded. 

"When do you want to leave?" 

"Now." 

And so we did. 



122 



CHAPTER XI 



"YOU 

HAVE SEEN 
THEIR FACES" 



W E DROVE until midnight and then checked 
in at a small hotel which we were lucky enough to find open. I 
remember my midnight impression the wide porch of graying 
woodwork, square-cut wooden pillars a bit off plumb. Plainly 
the home of some departed family had been salvaged to make the 
little hotel. A soft damp breeze touching me everywhere like 
the moist palm of a warm hand made me sleepily and pleasurably 
aware I was in the Deep South. I was in a new land, a land that 
had a pace of its own. Its own special enchantment hung over it. 
In the morning this film of mystery was dispelled, and the 
rather ramshackle building where we had spent the night was 
much like a hundred others which one sees throughout the South. 
Erskine drove his Ford to the front of the hotel and started load- 
ing up. The residents of the town from one end of the short main 
street to the other gathered to see the largest stack of assorted 
baggage the townspeople had ever known to be packed away in a 
single automobile. Sally, the literary secretary, ref ereed the oper- 
ation efficiently. She supervised a small squad of bellhops out of 
uniform as they tucked valises, cameras, lighting equipment, 
sweaters, films and tripods into every inch of the car except the 
front seat and a kind of nook in the back seat amidst the precari- 
ous towers of luggage. Someone would have to sit there. Sally 



With Erskme Caldwell m sharecropper country while working on You 
Have Seen Their Faces. 



t 



124 "YOU HAVE SEEN THEIR FACES" 

"Fm the hired help," she said. "Hired help sits at second table. 
Fll sit in the back seat." 

I fear no one contradicted her, not even out of politeness. 
Just before the takeoff, I leaped out of my front seat and ran 
back to the trunk compartment to check the position of two 
glass jars containing egg cases of the praying mantis. I was pho- 
tographing the life cycle of the mantes, and since they were due 
to emerge soon only the mantes knew when I dared not leave 
them behind. While I was tucking them in so they would ride 
smoothly, the lid of the trunk came down on my head. Not hard 
enough to do any real damage, but hard enough to make me 
want to avoid trunk lids from then on. 

Erskine gave a delighted chuckle. Why, he can laugh after all, 
I said to myself, and Erskine said, "I hope something funny hap- 
pens every day like a trunk lid coming down on Margaret's 
head." 

I could think of no suitable reply, but inwardly I thought, 
after all, Fd been ready to trade in almost anything for the op- 
portunity to work on this book, and if getting whammed on the 
head with the rear end of a car was part of the price of admis- 
sion, I guessed I could take that too. 

For the next several days we took a meandering course off the 
beaten highways from Georgia to Arkansas. During this time I 
was groping to read the mind of this enigma of a man. I wished 
I could divine how he "saw" the broader outlines of the book. 
Certainly the material was very rich and to me quite fresh and 
new. And yet^ I like to have the feeling of architecture while I 
work-of shaping up a group of photographs so that they form 
a meaningful whole. I was sure Erskine had the same feeling, but 
he did not talk about it readily. Several times he asked me if I 
had suggestions. I wished I knew enough to make suggestions. I 
was just getting my bearings. But if I was not making sugges- 
tions, I was making a very careful study of my author-partner, 
trying to guess what was in his mind. In this field of trying to 
guess what's in the mind of a quiet man, I felt relatively com- 
petent, for this was an area in which my silent father had given 
me a lot of practice. I longed for the time, which I was sure was 
not far away, when my horizon would be widened by looking 
through the eyes of another, as people do who work in partner- 



"YOU HAVE SEEN THEIR FACES" 1 25 

ship. Meanwhile, I was happy to be moving in a sphere which 
seemed both so worthwhile and so promising. 

We had been on the road for four days when we reached 
Little Rock, Arkansas. On the morning of the fifth day, Erskine 
came up to my room, as he always did, to help me down with my 
cameras. But this time he wanted to have a talk. I remember how 
we sat down on the wide windowsill of my second-floor room 
overlooking a street lined with shade trees. Erskine told me what 
was on his mind. He said he didn't think we were getting any- 
thing accomplished. He felt like a tourist guide just showing 
somebody around. He thought we should give the whole thing 
up. 

I was thunderstruck. How could I have been so obtuse as not 
to even guess things were so far off the track? I tried desperately 
to tell him how much this meant to me, this opportunity to do 
something worthwhile, but I wasn't making much sense, because, 
of course, I was crying. Then suddenly something very unex- 
pected happened. He fell in love with me. From then onward, 
everything worked out beautifully. 

Something unexpected happened on the sixth day too. At the 
hotel desk, Erskine received the surprising information that "the 
other young lady" had checked out at three o'clock in the morn- 
ing. There was a note. 

Sally explained she was tired of sitting in the back seat. She 
could work with one temperamental writer, or one tempera- 
mental photographer, she wrote, but nobody could compel her 
to put up with two temperamental artists in the same automobile 
in the summertime in Arkansas. 

From now on there were no more surprises, except personal 
and pleasant ones. The work was flowing along, a wide stream, 
with the deepening understanding between us. 

Whether he was aware of it or not, Erskine Caldwell was in- 
troducing me to a whole new way of working. He had a very 
quiet, completely receptive approach. He was interested not 
only in the words a person spoke, but in the mood in which they 
were spoken. He would wait patiently until the subject had re- 
vealed his personality, rather than impose his own personality 
on the subject, which many of us have a way of doing. Many 



126 "YOU HAVE SEEN THEIR FACES" 

times I watched the process through which Erskine became ac- 
quainted with some farmer and the farmer's problems. 

Erskine would be hanging over the back f ence, and the farmer 
would be leaning on his rake, the two engaged in what I sup- 
pose could be called a conversation that is, either Erskine or 
the fanner made one remark every fifteen minutes. Despite the 
frugal use of words, the process seemed productive of under- 
standing on both sides. While this interchange went on, I lurked 
in the background with a small camera, not stealing pictures 
exactly, which I seldom do, but working on general scenes as 
unobtrusively as possible. Once Erskine and a farmer had reached 
a kind of rapport, I could close in quite freely for portraits, and 
perhaps we would be invited into the tiny one-room sharecrop- 
per's home, which gave me a chance to photograph an interior. 

Erskine had a gift, over and above the Southern tongue with 
which he was born, for picking up the shade and degree of in- 
flection characteristic of the state in which we were working. 
His proficiency surprised me because he was uninterested in 
music. But in this he had a musician's ear. This was a useful talent 
in an area in which you are considered an alien and treated with 
appropriate distrust if you come from only as far away as across 
the state line. The people we were seeking out for pictures were 
generally suspicious of strangers. They were afraid we were go- 
ing to try to sell them something they didn't want and fearful 
we were taking their pictures only to ridicule them. Reassuring 
them was a very important part of our operations, and a re- 
assuring voice in their own mode of speech eliminated many a 
barrier. Of course, no amount of doctoring could disguise my 
mode of speech. I was unmistakably a Yankee, "down South on 
her vacation," Erskine would say. I could be labeled only as a 
foreigner, and sometimes I am afraid I acted like one. 

I remember one occasion when we went into a cabin to photo- 
graph a Negro woman who lived there. She had thick, glossy 
hair, and I had decided to take her picture as she combed it. She 
had a bureau made of a wooden box with a curtain tacked to it 
and lots of little homemade things. I rearranged everything. 
After we left, Erskine spoke to me about it. How neat her bureau 
had been. How she must have valued all her little possessions 
and how she had them tidily arranged her way, which was not 




Sharecropper couple: "A mm learns not to expect much after he's 
farmed cotton most of his life" 



my way. This was a new point of view to me. I felt I had done 
violence. 

As we penetrated the more destitute regions of the South, I 
was struck by the frequent reminders I found of the advertising 
world I thought I had left behind Here the people really used 
the ads. They plastered them directly on their houses to keep 
the wind out. Some sharecropper shacks were wrapped so snugly 
in huge billboard posters advertising magic pain-killers and But- 
tercup Snuff that the home itself disappeared from sight. The 
effect was bizarre. 



I2 8 "YOU HAVE SEEN THEIR FACES 

And inside, the effect was equally unexpected. The walls from 
floor to ceiling were papered in old newspapers and colorful ad- 
vertising pages torn from magazines. Very practical, Erskjne ex- 
plained to me. Good as insulation against either heat or chill, and 
it's clean and can be replaced for next to nothing. I had the un- 
easy feeling that if I explored around enough, I would find ad- 
vertisements I had done myself. 

I remember a little girl named Begonia, with whom I struck 
up a kind of friendship. When I asked how big her family was, 
she informed me she had a "heap" of brothers and sisters but 
hadn't ever counted them. Among the uncounted, I learned, was 
her twin sister. They went to school on alternate days, so as to 
share their single nondescript coat and their one pair of shoes. 
And here, right behind Begonia's wistful little face as she told 
me this, was this spectacular and improbable background show- 
ing all the world's goods. Begonia and her sister could look their 
walls over and find a complete range of shoes, jackets and coats. 
But never would they find that real coat and real pair of shoes 
which would take the second twin to school. 

The Buttercup Snuff advertised on the outside of their house- 
that they would have. In an impoverished Southern household, 
snuff is frequently bought ahead of food. It dulls the pain of 
aching teeth and empty stomachs as well. 

As we drove off, I glanced back over my shoulder. The snuff- 
wrapped shack looked like an immense Cocoon which I felt 
might at any moment hatch a giant bug that would walk away 
with the house. 

Cocoons were on my mind. At my side in the front seat I car- 
ried the glass bottles I had cared for so tenderly, each with its 
twig bearing a praying-mantis egg case the size of a golf ball. 
Ever since my childhood days when raising insect pets had been 
my hobby, I had wanted to take pictures of the metamorphosis 
of insects, and now with the new magazine coming out, I was 
glad that I had elicited Mr. Billings's interest in photographs of 
the life cycle of this dramatic insect. I was especially anxious to 
catch this hatching, because of a small tragedy which took place 
just before I left New York, wiping out a whole generation of 
mantes. The massacre occurred when writers, researchers and 
layout men were just settling into Life's new offices, and the 

A boy in his newspaper-insulated home, Louisiat 



130 "YOU HAVE SEEN THEIR FACES" 

place was a whirlwind of plaster and paint. The exterminator 
arrived, someone jerked a careless thumb, and by mistake he 
went into the office I was using to house my praying mantes. 
Five egg cases had hatched during the night, and I came in to 
find piles of the fragile miniature creatures, perhaps a thousand, 
lying on desks, chairs, bookshelves, the floor, each one perfectly 
formed but rigid as a wire hairpin. 

So it was natural that I should look down at frequent intervals 
to check the precious cargo. Emerging insects wait for no man. 
Following a mysterious timetable which only praying mantes can 
read, some minute weather change may unlock the door of the 
tough cocoon case, and out they come. Fortunately, when the 
first baby mantis wrestled its way free, we were on a back 
country road with a split-log fence perfect for holding the egg 
cases in position. I began to photograph the pouring river of 
midget creatures. Slithering out of their protective sheaths, they 
began climbing with great effort on their new and tender legs, 
dragging themselves upward on the shoulders of their brothers 
till they reached the upper air with its space and light. There 
they rested, some two hundred of them, each smaller than your 
fingernail. 

I, too, rested and, looking up, saw we were surrounded by a 
solemn ring of little children who had collected silently to watch 
and now began delightedly singing out, "Look at the little devil 
horses! Oh, look at the little devil horses!" 

I was glad my insects had hatched out here so I could learn 
this charming name for them. 

I received a new name too. I have been Peggy or Maggie to 
friends and colleagues, but Erskine, wanting his ow# name for 
me, called me Kit, because he said I had the contented expression 
of a kitten that has just swallowed a bowl of cream. 

Finding a nickname for Erskine Caldwell was much harder. 
Nothing can be made out of "Erskine" but Skinny, and even 
though he was anything but skinny, he had been called that by 
everyone most of his life. I disHked the name and searched for 
another. We tried "Skeats" for a while, but it never seemed to 
belong to him. Skinny he was and Skinny he remains. 

Sonny and I hoped to find a chain gang somewhere on the 

The captain stands guard over a Georgia chain gang. 



I 32 "YOU HAVE SEEN THEIR FACES" 

road. One could never get any precise information. There were 
just enough objectors to the idea of chaining men together like 
teams of oxen to make a sheriff think twice before helping a 
photographer find such a controversial subject. So when Erskine 
and I were exploring some back-country roads one day and 
rounded a curve, all but running down a chain gang in tattered 
stripes, we were lucky indeed. They were chained man to man, 
each with his soup spoon tucked in his iron ankle cuff. The 
sudden sight was almost too theatrical to believe. They looked 
as though they had strayed from an M-G-M group on location. 

Our reception was just as theatrical. The very unpleasant 
captain of the gang demanded our permit to photograph chain 
gangs, and began waving his rifle wildly at us and shouting 
threats. When he yelled that he would blow off our tires, Skinny 
and I left, and returned, driving past in a zigzag course. The 
captain fired several rounds toward the wheels of the car. 
Whether they missed by design or accident, we decided this was 
the time to try to get a permit. Erskine recalled that an acquaint- 
ance of his school days had become a political personage in a 
town not far away. The handy friend took us in to see the 
Commissioner, and when we left, we carried a document which 
was fine indeed with stamps and seals. As we drove back to our 
location, I decided I could risk my right arm by hanging it out 
of the window and waving our license like a flag of truce. The 
captain looked at the document with rage on his face and felt 
the seals with an exploring thumb. 

"The Commissioner, what the hell," he hissed, "he knows I 
don't know how to read." 

So it was up to us to read and reread the permit aloud with 
such dramatic expression there was nothing the captain could do 
except allow us to bring out cameras and take photographs. 

Twenty years later, while working on Life's segregation story 
in the South, I found the road gangs again. Little had changed 
except for one detail. I had never before heard of segregated 
chain gangs. But now there were black chain gangs an4 white 
chain gangs. A newly arrived prisoner could shoulder his 
pickax and take his place on the road with the comforting assur- 
ance that the convicts with whom he would be so intimately 
bound would match him in skin color. 



"YOU HAVE SEEN THEIR FACES" 133 

Anyone who has driven through the Deep South is familiar 
with the religious signs which punctuate the highways. We 
wanted to take a look at the religion behind the road signs. 
With the Negro churches this was easy and pleasant. Visitors 
were always welcome, even a visitor who came loaded with 
cameras. There was sure to be good hymn-singing and a fire- 
eating preacher. When the fiery sermon whipped up the parish- 
ioners to fever pitch and left them thrashing about on the floor 
in a religious frenzy, it all seemed close to some tribal ritual, as 
though the worshipers still answered to the rhythm of the jungle. 

There is a white counterpart which fewer people know, 
furtive, shamefaced and hidden. Visitors are unwelcome. The 
churches are hard to find. It was something of an achievement 
when Erskine and I discovered the Holiness Church with a small, 
all-white congregation in a stony South Carolina town. The 
church matched the townbleak and built of splintery boards 
which had never been painted. We made our great find on a Sun- 
day morning. Everyone was already in church. I tucked a small 
camera into my jacket, and Erskine filled his pockets with flash- 
bulbs. Finding the church door locked from the inside, we leaped 
through the open window and started taking pictures at once, 
Erskine changing flashbulbs as though he had been assisting a 
photographer all his life. 

It was a strange little scene. Women were careening about in 
their cotton print dresses, and several times they nearly threw 
me off my feet and all but knocked my camera out of my hands 
as they waved their Bibles and shrieked their "Praise Be's." The 
worshipers were running the whole gamut of religious frenzy 
from exaltation to torpor. Some were writhing on the floor in 
that state of religious ecstasy known as "coming through." The 
minister, having whipped up his flock to this peak of hysteria, 
was overcome with exhaustion and sank down on the platform 
of his pulpit, where he held his head in his hands. Both men and 
women began rolling about on the floor, chanting their "Amens" 
in voices fading from hoarseness. Finally, the hallelujahs began 
dying away, and each amen was fainter than the last. The min- 
ister was beginning to stir in his coma. Plainly the time had 
come to leave. We sailed out through the windows the way we 
had come in, and in a matter of minutes we were out of town. 



134 "YOU HAVE SEEN THEIR FACES" 

I was amazed that we had been able to bring it off successfully. 
There was one item of my photographic equipment which I 
believe helped us. Synchronized flashbulbs in 1936 were some- 
what new to photographers and new enough to me so that I 
underexposed some of the pictures, and only Oscar, working in 
the darkroom, managed to salvage a few of them. Certainly a 
backwoods congregation had never seen flashbulbs. Under the 
sway of the sermon with its fearful warnings of hell to all who 
did not mend their sinful ways, these worshipers must have 
thought we were avenging angels come down in a blaze of light 
in direct response to their preacher's fiery words. 

Long after the excitement of jumping through the church 
windows to get the pictures has mellowed down in memory, I 
find myself still thinking of that bleak and splintery church on 
its plot of stony ground. The pitiful masquerade of religion 
I witnessed there has left its vivid image deep in my mind. It is 
obvious this shoddy little ceremonial re-enacted each week in 
the name of religion, was the very antithesis of religion, but to 
me it is full of meaning. It illuminates the spiritual poverty 
of people who have no other emotional release, no relaxation 
and laughter, no movies or books and, far worse, no educational 
or other inner equipment with which to change the course of 
their meaningless lives. Worshipers come to church, bowed 
down with problems, and are given the church floor on which 
to throw themselves and drown their troubles in religious ecstasy 
every Sunday morning. Seen in the context of this barren exist- 
ence, the drab little church is an ironic symbol. 

Many times in sharecropper country, my thoughts went back 
to the Dakotas, where the farmers were stricken with the 
drought. Their very desperation had jolted me into the realiza- 
tion that a man is more than a figure to put into the background 
of a photograph for scale. The drought-ridden farmers had 
contributed to my education in a human direction, and here with 
the sharecroppers, I was learning that to understand another 
human being you must gain some insight into the conditions 
which made him what he is. The people and the forces which 




Tenant former's wife: "I've done the best I knew how all my life, 
but it didn't amount to much in the end'' 



136 "YOU HAVE SEEN THEIR FACES" 

shape them: each holds the key to the other. These are relation- 
ships that can be studied and photographed. 

I began watching for the effect of events on human beings. 
I was awakening to the need of probing and learning, discovering 
and interpreting. I realized that any photographer who tries to 
portray human beings in a penetrating way must put more heart 
and mind into his preparation than will ever show in any photo- 
graph. 

Back in New York, Erskine took me to the theater to see 
Tobacco Road. He made a practice of dropping in at widely 
spaced intervals, particularly when new actors replaced the old, 
which had to happen now and then because of the play's 
phenomenally long run. (One actor had actually died onstage.) 
When Tobacco Road reached the end of the road, it had chalked 
up more than 3,000 performances in New York City alone, and 
such odd mementos from the stage sets as a well, a shack, and a 
wagon wheel had gone to the Smithsonian Institution. 

Between the acts we ran into a friend of mine from Atlanta 
who was a typical Southerner, if I ever saw one. I introduced 
him to Mr. Erskine Caldwell, but it was obvious as he talked 
that he did not realize he was speaking to the author. Sam ex- 
plained he had heard so much about the play, he thought he 
ought to come and see for himself whether it was true or false. 
"Because I come from just that part of Georgia," said Sam, "I 
would know better than anybody." 

"How do you find the play?" I asked. 

"Oh, it's greatly overrated," said Sam. "It's not true to life at 
all, it's greatly exaggerated." And, muttering "greatly over- 
rated" to himself, Sam went happily back to pull the second act 
apart, all unknowing that he had been expressing his opinions to 
the man who started it all. 

Erskine was pleased. It is very seldom, he told me, that you 
have the opportunity to hear critical or derogatory remarks face 
to face. In the early years of the play, he used to skulk around 
between acts hoping to overhear adverse reactions. 

"You don't learn much from praise," he said. "You learn from 
adverse criticism. If people are aroused and angry and take the 
trouble to let you know about it, you know you've made a dent. 
If it doesn't evoke any reaction, what use is it? If a book or play 



YOU HAVE SEEN THEIR FACES 137 

evokes a strong reaction, that's one of the highest tributes your 
work can have." 

We plunged into writing captions for the book, and ours was 
a real collaboration. We did not want the matter of whether the 
pictures "illustrated" the text, or the words explained the pictures, 
to have any importance. We wanted a result in which the pic- 
tures and words truly supplemented one another, merging into a 
unified whole. We had a kind of ritual about this. We would 
arrange eight pictures in the middle of the floor. We backed 
gway and, sitting against the wall separately, wrote tentative 
captions and then put them side by side to see what we had. 
Many times the final caption was a combination of the two the 
thought mine and the words Erskine's, or vice versa. Occasional 
captions were all mine, and I was proud indeed when either my 
thought or my way of expressing the subject stood up in the 
final test. But it made no difference who contributed what, be- 
cause by now we were sure that the book had unity. 

'This book has to have a title, you know," Skinny said one 
day. 

I had been so deep in finishing the pictorial touches that actu- 
ally I had never given any thought to the title. But Skinny had. 
In fact, the title came to his mind two years before he met me. I 
learned what it was only when we went to see Viking Press, the 
publishers. I still recall the little scene vividly: the rather severe 
vestibule of the office, the exhilaration of completing a big piece 
of work which was a milestone in my life. 

"The title is You Have Seen Their Faces" said Skinny. "How 
do you like it?" 

The name implied just what I had been searching for as I 
worked. Faces that would express what we wanted to tell. Not 
just the unusual or striking face, but the face that would speak 
out the message from the printed page. 

Since Skinny valued brickbats above praise, I was glad for 
his sake that when the book came out, a fair number of them 
appeared in the book reviews. There was the editor of a South 
Carolina newspaper who called the book "a new slander on the 
South." There was the reviewer who advised Mr. Caldwell "to 
go back to his novelistic knitting." And the commentator who, 
choking on his own vituperative prose, ended up, "Fie on Mr. 



138 "YOU HAVE SEEN THEIR FACES" 

Caldwell!" And since we were rating brickbats so high, I was 
glad to get my share of them too. There were many variations 
of the question which all serious photographers are asked in 
many forms: Why take pictures of the bad things in life? Why 
not find something more pleasant to photograph? 

The version I enjoyed most came from an interior-decoration 
magazine which scolded me for taking pictures of sharecroppers' 
tumbledown shacks: Why didn't I choose some modern living 
room which would certainly be decorated in better taste and 
more typically American? 

The most intriguing comment of all came in the form of a 
letter which started out: "Margaret Bourke- White is a Yankee 
and doesn't know any better, but Erskine Caldwell is a born 
Southerner and he does know better." It went on to accuse Mr. 
Caldwell of building a stage set of the church, hiring actors and 
bringing me South to photograph the performance. 

The other side of the ledger was more crowded. I don't think 
either of us was preparedcertainly I wasn't for the wide re- 
sponse the book received. The editorial page of the Philadelphia 
Record reminded its readers that "it was a book Uncle Tom's 
Cabin that roused the world to the menace of slavery." There 
is today another kind of slavery, the editorial pointed out, "and 
there is no better way to gain an understanding of it than by 
slowly turning the disquieting pages of this book." 

It was high praise when Harry Hansen wrote in the World- 
Telegram, "The pictures have the quality of the very finest 
portraits. They depict man and the intention of his soul." I 
hoped to continue to earn it. In any case it was a clear and even 
inspiring statement of what I wanted my camera to do in the 
years to come. 

Erskine and I were particularly happy when reviewers treated 
the book in terms of collaboration, as did Malcolm Cowley who 
wrote, "This book belongs to a new art, one that has to be 
judged by different standards," and the Boston Transcript which 
wrote, "This is the South seen through the magic bitterness of 
text and the magic eye of a camera." This was just what I had 
hopedthat through the fusion of words and pictures, we would 
create something new. 

Now the book had a life of its own and was no longer a per- 



YOU HAVE SEEN THEIR FACES" 139 

sonal thing. It had grown bigger than the two of us. Already it 
was reaching out, influencing others, and soon was to influence 
some United States legislation, a source of quiet pride to both 
of us. 

Just how far its influence reached I was not to learn until 
twelve years later, when I was in Africa working on a picture 
essay of South Africa for Life magazine. With racial tensions 
running high, it required all the diplomacy I had to get the 
pictures I needed. I had completed my portraits of the higher- 
ups, but I could find no channels through which to meet native 
Africans and the "coloreds," and without this contact I could 
not get a balanced story. 

I remember feeling quite desperate as I walked along a Cape- 
town street down near the piers. Suddenly a native African 
woman came up behind me and spoke my name. She had recog- 
nized me from a newspaper picture. She pulled from her blouse 
a well-worn copy, obviously widely-circulated, of You Have 
Seen Their Faces. Through this unexpected contact, I was able 
to complete my story. I am sure that many of these people could 
not read the book, but still they knew it. They believed I would 
be trying to get to the truth of a question, and they trusted me. 



141 



CHAPTER XII 



LIFE BEGINS 



1 HE FIRST ISSUE of a magazine is not the maga- 
zine. It is the beginning." 

With these words of introduction from the editors, Life's 
Vol. I, No. i, came into existence on November 23, 1936. A 
few weeks before the beginning, Harry Luce called me up to 
his office and assigned me to a wonderful story out in the North- 
west. Luce was very active editorially in the early days of the 
magazine, and there was always that extra spark in the air. 

Harry's idea was to photograph the enormous chain of dams 
in the Columbia River basin that was part of the New Deal pro- 
gram. I was to stop off at New Deal, a settlement near Billings, 
Montana, where I would photograph the construction of Fort 
Peck, the world's largest earth-filled dam. Harry told me to 
watch out for something on a grand scale that might make a 
cover. 

"Hurry back, Maggie," he said, and off I went. 

I had never seen a place quite like the town of New Deal, the 
construction site of Fort Peck Dam. It was a pinpoint in the 
long, lonely stretches of northern Montana so primitive and so 
wild that the whole ramshackle town seemed to carry the flavor 
of the boisterous Gold Rush days. It was stuffed to the seams 
with construction men, engineers, welders, quack doctors, bar- 
maids, fancy ladies, and, as one of my photographs illustrated, 
the only idle bedsprings in New Deal were the broken ones. 
People lived in trailers, huts, coops anything they could find 
and at night they hung over the Bar X bar. 

During the mornings I worked on the inspiring high earth- 
works of the dam. At noon when the light was too flat for 



Fort Peck Dam, Montana. This -picture was LifeV first cover, November 
23, 1936- 



142 "LIFE" BEGINS 

photographs, I rode off on horseback through the endless level 
stretches which would be reservoir when the work was finished. 
When I had used the sun's last rays to the utmost, I would turn 
up at Bar X or the Buck Horn Club. The Buck Horn employed 
a college football star as bouncer, and at the Bar X the four- 
year-old daughter of the barmaid spent every evening seated on 
the bar. At a little distance from town in Happy Valley, I could 
photograph fancy ladies. Breakfast could always be obtained in 
a tiny lunch wagon at the edge of an eroded gully. I ate the 
construction men's specialwaffles piled with whipped cream 
and enormous pecans. 

A telegram came from Dan Longwell, indicating that the 
editors were very uneasy about what should be the opening 
subject in the new magazine. He wanted to know what I had. 
I wired, "Everything from fancy ladies to babies on the bar." 
When the editors saw my pictures, they wrote the following 
introduction: 

If any Charter Subscriber is surprised by what turned out to be the 
first story in this first issue of Life, he is not nearly so surprised as the 
Editors were. Photographer Margaret Bourke-White had been dis- 
patched to the Northwest to photograph the multi-million dollar 
projects of the Columbia River Basin. What the Editors expected 
were construction pictures as only Bourke-White can take them. 
What the Editors got was a human document of American frontier 
life which, to them at least, was a revelation. 

These were the days of Life's youth, and things were very 
informal. I woke up each morning ready for any surprise the 
day might bring. I loved the swift pace of the Life assignments, 
the exhilaration of stepping over the threshold into a new land. 
Everything could be conquered. Nothing was too difficult. And 
if you had a stiff deadline to meet, all the better. You said yes 
to the challenge and shaped up the story accordingly, and found 
joy and a sense of accomplishment in so doing. 

The world was full of discoveries waiting to be made. I felt 
very fortunate that I had an outlet, such an exceptional outlet, 
perhaps the only one of this kind in the world at that time, 
through which I could share the things I saw and learned. I know 
of nothing to equal the happy expectancy of finding something 




The Bar X, New Deal, Montana. The baby on the bar in LifeV first 
photo-essay brought sow protests -from readers. 



new, something unguessed in advance, something only you would 
find, because as well as being a photographer, you were a certain 
kind of human being, and you would react to something all 
others might walk by. Another photographer might make pic- 
tures just as fine, but they would be different. Only you would 
come with just that particular mental and emotional experience 
to perceive just the telling thing for that particular story, and 
capture it on a slice of film gelatin. 

There is nothing else like the exhilaration of a new story boil- 
ing up. To me this was food and drink the last-minute feverish 
preparations, the hurried consultations with editors, not so much 
for instructions as to sense how they "saw" the story, and to get 
that suggestion of a spine, that sense of structure, that indefinable, 
inspired plus which one somehow absorbs from the finest editors. 







A steel "liner 3 * designed to carry a fourth of the Missouri River in a vast irriga 




project. Fort Peck Dam under construction, Life, Volume I, Number i. 



146 "LIFE" BEGINS 

Then the momentous decisions to make about supplies: which 
cameras, film, and what kind of lighting equipment to take. 

Often in the explosive departures, I felt as though I had been 
tossed into a whirlpool with all the stuff and could only hope the 
essential items stuck to me. Usually they did, largely because of 
Oscar Graubner and later, other equally wonderful darkroom 
people watched over me. 

There was always more than a person could do, it seemed, but 
I would find I somehow had done it and was on my way, breath- 
ing and recovering and relaxing and catnapping, and even with 
some research material, maps and clippings which I could read 
and study on the way. 

In the beginning of Life there were only four photographers, 
and with the magazine coining out every week, there was a great 
deal to be done. We went on story after story, one after another, 
and our paths seldom crossed. 

I came to know Alfred Eisenstaedt first dear, gentle Eisie, 
with his great gift for piercing through to the hidden hearts of 
those he photographed, his masterful technique on the miniature 
camera which was then new in this country. 

Tom McAvoy had worked for Time in Washington and was 
transferred from Time to prepublication Life magazine. 

Peter Stackpole, a youngster then on the Pacific coast, had 
been so intrigued with the building of the exquisite Golden Gate 
Bridge that he took a marvelous series of photographs which 
caught the eye of Life editors, and he was given a job on Life. 

Bostonian Carl Mydans was a newspaper reporter before he 
was a photographer. He narrowly missed being on the original 
Life photographic staff. He arrived on the scene one day after 
the first issue of Life hit the newsstands. 

One of the finest things about working with Life was the way 
we were treated as adults. I was given an enormous amount of 
freedom of choice when it came to assignments. Sometimes the 
ideas originated with the editors and sometimes with me. If I 
dreamed up an idea for a story which I thought would be a good 
ooe, I researched it and hunted up people who could give me 
background on it, and then went to the editors with my idea. 
If they thought it made sense, they sent me out on it. 

The laiger portion of the story ideas came from the editors, 
but this did not mean that I had to accept them. Occasionally I 



"LIFE" BEGINS 147 

turned a story down, but I did this only if I felt the idea was 
a synthetic one that originated in an office armchair and was 
not a slice of real life. But this was rare. Most of the assignments 
offered to me were exciting and tantalizing ones, and I was 
frequently picked out for the photo-essay type of story which 
I had felt was in a way my "baby," since doing the Fort Peck 
picture essay for the first issue of Life. When the editors called 
me in on a story which they referred to as the "Bourke-White" 
type of story, this made me very proud. 

Up to now I had never worked on stories where the news 
timing was of paramount importance, but my next batch of 
assignments had to do with people and events in Washington. 
Plunging into the news world was for me a very exciting thing. 
Although I had been thinking of picture stories in connection 
with news in the broad sense, that is, having a news peg with 
which to place the story in time and space, this had the now-or- 
never atmosphere. For photographers, this was a world of its 
own, or rather, a war of its own, with added stress when the 
target had something to do with Washington, or the administra- 
tion, or, most backbreaking of all, with the President himself. 
For picture sessions, a very limited amount of time was rigidly 
set, and photographers of all kinds were rabidly intent on 
squeezing every usable second out of the meager allotment. 

Usually I was the only woman photographer, and the tech- 
nique I followed was to literally crawl between the legs of my 
competitors and pop my head and camera up for part of a 
second before the competition slapped me down again. At least, 
the point of view was different from that of the others whose 
pictures were, perforce, almost identical, and, anyway, Fve al- 
ways liked "the caterpillar view." 

It was surprising to discover that photographers whose work 
involved the news in any way formed a kind of caste system, 
with newsreels the Brahmins at the top, and the still photog- 
raphersthe untouchables at the bottom. Even on the bottom 
rungs, the newspaper stills ranked higher than the magazine stills. 
And when TV came along, another rung had to be added at the 
top of the ladder, and even these highest-caste photographers are 
split between black-and-white and color, with color on the top- 
most peak. 



148 "LIFE" BEGINS 

When President Roosevelt's second inauguration was to take 
place, Dan Longwell worked some persuasive magic and actually 
got me a little blue chip of cardboard which allotted to me a 
space on the high platform. Inauguration Day dawned with the 
heaviest rainfall since Taft became President in 1909. My 
photographer's sense impelled me to get to the spot very early, 
because I could see there would be the worst-possible photo- 
graphic conditions to deal with. When I arrived on the dismal 
scene, I was fortunate to find a little boy to help me up with all 
my equipment to the highest stand, which was splendid indeed 
with its unbroken view to the inaugural platform on the White 
House portico. I had my largest cameras and tripods, knowing 
that long steady exposures would be necessary in this dullest of 
all possible daylight. 

I got everything arranged and waited complacently for the 
other photographers to arrive. By now the crowds in the Capitol 
Plaza were packed so tight they formed a solid roof of umbrellas. 
We still had ten minutes before the show would begin, and I 
was wondering where my colleagues were. In less than another 
minute they appeared, scaling the platform like a pack of orang- 
outangs and taking up their places with their heavy gear. Sud- 
denly I found myself being pushed away and had to cling to the 
handrail so I would not fall off the platform. A very aggressive 
young man, a movie photographer, walked up and pushed me 
aside so he could take the place where I had been standing. I 
brought out my ticket and he produced an identical one. My 
cries were drowned in the lashing rain, and there was no time for 
arguments anyway. The inauguration had begun. Immediately I 
made a run for one of the lowly still photographers 7 stands. This 
time there was no little boy to help me with cameras, but some- 
how I made it with the heavy gear and reached the humble 
platform just in time to catch the ceremony. 

When it was over, one thing happened, so unexpected and 
wonderful that I was sure it had saved the day for me. To the 
delight of the soggy crowd, President and Mrs. Roosevelt 
stepped into an open car, facing the rain along with the rest 
of us. By extraordinary good luck, the President's car passed 
within perfect focusing range of the spot where I stood. FDR 
was at his best, waving and smiling, and there could be no ques- 
tion that this was the key shot of my day. No one else, I was 



'LIFE" BEGINS 149 

sure, had got anything else just like that. Joy overwhelmed me 
until I got to the darkroom and saw that I had underexposed this 
negative so badly that only a trace of the image appeared, just 
enough to show how wonderful the picture would have been. 
But the general view of the inauguration over the sea of um- 
brellas, of which I had expected nothing that Life used as a 
double-page spread. 

The Louisville flood burst into the news almost overnight. I 
caught the last plane to Louisville, then hitchhiked my way from 
the mud-swamped airport to the town. To accomplish the last 
stretch of this journey, I thumbed rides in rowboats and once 
on a large raft. These makeshift craft were bringing food pack- 
ages and bottles of clean drinking water to marooned families 
and seeking out survivors. Working from the rowboats gave me 
good opportunities to record acts of mercy as they occurred. 

I found that three-quarters of the city was inundated. Down- 
town Louisville was a beleaguered castle surrounded by a moat. 
The office of the Courier-Journal, which was still managing to 
turn out newspapers, kept a kind of open house for anybody 
from the press, near or far, who had no place to lay his head. 
Reporters slept on desks or in any available corner on the floor. 
I staked out a claim to a desktop which seemed about my size, 
but it was a long time before I was able to go to sleep on it, 
because I was so busy photographing members of the press and 
their makeshift quarters. I was pleased that Life ran a spread on 
the working press. 

This was one of the three most disastrous floods in American 
history, but, as always, the small things stand out in one's mind. 
On climbing through the second-story window of a pet shop, I 
was startled to find scores of canaries, their full-feathered wings 
spread out in the exquisite patterns of Japanese silks, beautiful 
even in death. Another sort of beauty in death, a beauty which 
was indeed in the eye of the beholder, I encountered when by 
chance I entered a funeral parlor and found the undertaker 
trying to find words to express his shock when he saw a body 
floating past his door, maneuvered it in with a long broom, and 
discovered it was a dear neighbor. He performed that last of all 
services, which he was so particularly qualified to perform, for 
his friend and, gesturing toward his worktable, said, "Doesn't 



"LIFE" BEGINS 

she look beautiful? I've made her look fifteen years younger." 
There was the irony of the relief line standing against the 
incongruous background of an NAM poster showing a contented 
family complete with cherubic children, dog and car, its printed 
message proclaiming, "There's no way like the American Way." 
To me this mammoth flood was another bitter chapter in the 
bleak drama of waste of our American earth, which I had watched 
unfolding and had tried to record since the drought. The juxta- 
position of blowing soil and rainfall, of eroded farmlands and 
inundated cities, made an ominous continuing pattern. 

In general, the farther away I am sent to cover an assignment, 
the better I like it. However, one of the most exciting episodes 
I ever had a chance to cover broke virtually under our office 
windows. It was a true-to-type old-fashioned muckraking story, 
unfolding just across the Hudson River, on the sprawling Jersey 
side. Tales were reaching us of reporters being beaten up, of 
photographers having their cameras snatched away from them 
and jumped on. It seemed almost as though Jersey City was fast 
becoming a private kingdom with its mayor as its ruler. 

Mayor Hague was an outstanding member of a type of van- 
ishing American. He was the last of the big city bosses. He was 
a mayor with whom no one could argue, whose last word was 
"I am the law," and he meant just that. With the country's 
largest per capita police force at his back, nine hundred strong, 
rare was the constituent who talked back. 

For my part, I could hardly believe there would be any physi- 
cal violence, but I was just as pleased when, on the first day, 
C. D, Jackson accompanied me across the river to make sure 
that I got started right. We were given a grand tour of nine 
miles of waterfront, the terminus for eight railroads, and a visit 
to the impressive Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital which 
the mayor had named after his mother. We were given a grand- 
stand view from the balcony of a modern and dramatic delivery 
room, where we watched a baby being brought into the world 
by Caesarean section, something which neither C. D. nor I had 
seen before. Obstetrical care was given free to needy mothers, 
and for those who did pay, the charge was never higher than 



"LIFE" BEGINS 151 

thirty-five dollars. I was glad to see the Mayor's concern that 
children in his city get a good start in life, but I was startled to 
find that his concern for the very young stopped abruptly at 
the doors of the hospital. 

Almost within the long shadow of the Mayor's monument to 
his mother was a confused area of two- and three-storied houses 
of rickety wood, with outside stairways and a nightmarish, high, 
open wooden platform connecting one family dwelling with the 
next. It was whispered that this was the center of the child labor 
area, but no one used this phrase openly. It was benignly re- 
ferred to as "home industries." 

Under the rotting roofs of this dinosaur among residence 
buildings, many a white-faced child toiled away making artificial 
flowers, kept home from school because only with the help of 
the children could the family make two dollars and a half a day, 
the absolute minimum on which the entire family could keep it- 
self alive. How I longed to get a camera inside one of these 
homes, but that would have to wait a bit. 

At the beginning of my assignment, I was plainly the Mayor's 
pet. I accompanied him to all his speeches and sat in the front row 
and jumped up with flashbulbs ready when he made one of his 
authoritative gestures. As he bellowed out his message, he stood 
against a background of striking banners, with slogans: CITIZENS 

OF JERSEY CITY ARE ALWAYS ONE HUNDRED PERCENT AMERICAN, 

and REDS, KEEP OUT! 

During these first days when I was persona grata, I enjoyed 
the dubious privilege of a police escort, which met me every day 
when I stepped out of the Hudson Tube, and tenderly moved 
my cameras from the subway car into the king-sized limousine 
waiting at the curb. 

But once I had satisfied myself that everything I needed in the 
way of pictures on the Hague side of the ledger was taken, I 
managed to give my bodyguards the slip* I had arranged in ad- 
vance for helpers who knew the waterfront well. Chief among 
these was a reporter from one of the Jersey City newspapers, 
who, since he could not use this material for his own paper, wel- 
comed the chance to add his efforts to mine so the story would 
see daylight. Together we raced to the shipping docks, which I 
wanted to see again at closer range. 



152 "LIFE" BEGINS 

These docks were enormous and handled large quantities of 
shipments for foreign ports. At the dock I found many of the 
great crates that lay ready for shipment were addressed to cities 
in the Soviet Union, to Odessa and Sevastopol. One great piece 
of oil machinerya giant cylinder bearing the stamp of Amtorg, 
the Soviet trading agency made a dramatic and informative 
picture. It was so placed and so big on the dock that I could 
photograph it showing the Manhattan skyline right over it. This 
pinned down the location as the Jersey City waterfront beyond 
argument. Probably all this material was routine shipping, but I 
marveled at a despot who could thunder out to his constituents 
in the evening, "Now is the time to strike at Red invasion" and 
then do business with Red Russia next morning. 

I was so afraid my police escort might catch up with me that 
I dared not complete a single roll of film. As soon as I got three 
or four shots on a roll, I dispatched one of my helpers over to 
New York with it. I knew that it was inevitable that I would be 
arrested before long, so I worked feverishly to expose all of the 
skeletons in the closet before I might be dragged away from 
the scene. 

From now on, it was cops and robbers. I managed several 
shots in the rattletrap building, some showing three generations 
making lampshades, ceilings and walls dripping with highly com- 
bustible paper lampshade parts. Here I did not pause even to re- 
load cameras, but handed them with the exposed films still inside 
to my helper, who stuffed them out of sight somehow and made 
his escape. I still had two cameras in reserve, and I was poking 
the lens of one of them into the cavelike dwelling of the violet 
makers a place so snowed under with artificial violet petals that 
if anyone had struck a match, it would have fused off the whole 
building. I had just finished with violets when the city's finest 
caught up with me. I was taken straight to police headquarters. 
I was not beaten, and the cameras were not jumped on, but they 
might as well have been, because they were torn open, the film 
ripped out, which of course ruined diem instantly on exposure 
to the daylight. I was able to watch this scene of destruction in 
comparative calm. Thanks to our pony-express system, the key 
shots were already crossing the Hudson River by ferry to safety 
in Manhattan. 



153 



CHAPTER XIII 



HIS 

EXCELLENCY 
AND THE 
BUTTERFLIES 



WHEN HIS EXCELLENCY Lord Tweedsmuir, 
newly appointed Governor-General of Canada, decided to take 
a closer look at his far-flung dominion than any of his predeces- 
sors had done before him, he planned his tour as though he were 
writing one of his own adventure stories. Known better to the 
reading public under the name to which he was born, John 
Buchan, he had somehow found time in an incredibly busy ca- 
reer to write some fifty booksbiographies, historical novels, 
mystery thrillers. Several of them were made into movies, of 
which the most popular was The Thirty-Nine Steps, a tale of 
suspense and spies. In addition, he had been a war correspondent 
in World War I, when practicing members of this profession 
must have been a great rarity. King George V was his personal 
friend and conferred on him a baronial title and then packed him 
off to hold one of the biggest jobs in the British Empire. 

The Thirty-Nine Steps was my favorite movie long before I 
ever dreamed I would be accompanying its versatile author 
through more than a thousand miles of Arctic tundra. 

Back in the dark ages of the middle thirties when Life was 
less than one year old-the idea of going to the Arctic for a pic- 



HIS EXCELLENCY AND THE BUTTERFLIES 

ture story was in somewhat the same category as an assignment 
to the moon is today, definitely not to be viewed as impossible, 
but rather as something on the difficult list. 

The adventurous viceroy's tour through the barren reaches of 
the top of the world commenced so quietly and with such an 
absence of fanfare that by the time news of it reached the Time 
& Life Building, His Excellency was already aboard an antique 
wood-burning steam wheeler, threading the reedy marshes of the 
Athabaska River, heading "down North" toward the Arctic 
Ocean. The problem was to get me there. 

The editors arranged to have a small plane on pontoons wait- 
ing for me as soon as I crossed the Canadian border, in which 
they hoped I could catch up with His Excellency. It all seemed 
delightfully cops-and-robberish to me the idea of chasing the 
Governor-General down the waterways of Canada, like a char- 
acter lifted straight out of a John Buchan thriller, in which the 
hero was being chased by international spies, hunted out by low- 
flying airplanes. 

Everybody at Life was thrilled about this unusual story. Even 
Mr. Billings laid down his Olympian reserve. I still can hear the 
happy excitement in his voice as he plotted out my itinerary on 
maps and charts: "Great Slave Lake, Great Bear Lake, you're 
really going to be way up north when you get there. Better pack 
plenty of warm clothes. But I don't know it will be summer in 
the Arctic." 

How warm is the Arctic summertime? How light is the light 
of the midnight sun? There was no time to get authoritative 
answers to these important questions. Oscar, in Life's darkroom, 
made some' shrewd guesses as to the photographic supplies I 
should take, and I packed my ski suit, which I was to work and 
sleep in for days at a time. Last of all I packed my butterflies. 

I was in the midst of photographing the life cycle of the 
mourning cloak butterflies. They were in the chrysalis stage, but 
little telltale wiggles showed they were getting ready to hatch 
at this most inconvenient of all times. I had raised them from 
eggs to caterpillars, to chrysalis, and if I missed getting pictures 
of these as they hatched, I would have to wait another year to 
complete the series, and heaven knew what I might be doing 
then. 



Lord Tweedsjnuir, Governor-General of Canada, during his tour through 
the unpopulated valleys of the world's top, studies his route on a map of 
moosebide made for htm bv Eskimos. 



HIS EXCELLENCY AND THE BUTTERFLIES 

To circumvent any possible prohibition against carrying in- 
sects across the border, I scattered the ten chrysalises through a 
case of peanut flashbulbs, assured that there they would get some 
air and room if they started hatching before I could get back 
to them again. I flew into Canada by passenger plane, and was 
picked up by the small pontoon plane. My pilot followed the 
lazy curves of the river, and almost immediately all signs of hu- 
man life and civilization seemed to drop away until ahead we 
spotted the S.S. Distributor, which carried the viceregal party. 
The Distributor was the lifeline to the far North. It managed to 
get in two trips to deliver groceries and other essentials during 
the brief summer thaw, before the great freeze-up sealed the tiny 
missions and trapper camps away from the world again. 

My pilot set the airplane down lightly on the river beside the 
boat, and I was dragged aboard with all my gear. Once I was on 
board, life slowed down to the leisurely pace. Even the mourn- 
ing cloaks, influenced perhaps by the increasing coolness, slowed 
down their mysterious life processes and seemed content to wait 
for whatever nature might bring. 

From the very start there was a kind of affectionate friendship 
between His Excellency and myself. I found him a wiry, astute 
man of few words. He was indexing the manuscript of a biog- 
raphy of Augustus that he had recently completed, and he spent 
the greater part of the day at the stern of the boat, an excellent 
place to write undisturbed. A long narrow table had been con- 
trived for him with a couple of planks, and there he sat with the 
fluttering little white paper markers of his index all over the 
place. Our cargo almost swallowed him up. His spare form was 
all but lost in the midst of the pig crates, the cage of chickens, 
the tractor, the assortment of agricultural implements which sur- 
rounded him. Several times I tiptoed up and photographed his 
expressive back, but I never interrupted him while he was 
working. 

Whenever we arrived at one of the sparse and very tiny towns, 
His Excellency would disembark with his aide-de-camp and 
others of his party and make a speech, always the same speech, 
and take a quick trip around the community, with whatever 
priests, nuns and missionaries and other inhabitants of this area 
had gathered to meet him. On one occasion when I was taking 



HIS EXCELLENCY AND THE BUTTERFLIES 157 

photographs, I called out to His Excellency to ask him to stand 
on the gangplank a second longer while I got a better viewpoint. 
He consented graciously, but a half hour later when we re- 
embarked, I got a scolding from the aide-de-camp. He reminded 
me that His Excellency was the direct representative, the very 
symbol, of the King. "Americans never seem to understand this." 
The great fault I had committed was to address His Excellency 
before he addressed me. One must wait until royalty opens the 
conversation. I was so taken aback that I burst into tears. 

My unintended rudeness toward royalty notwithstanding, the 
symbol of the King took considerable interest in my butterflies. 
Their metamorphosis had slowed down a little, due to the cooler 
climate, but once more they had started wiggling and I knew 
their transformation was due soon. I taped up the ten on the 
rail of the upper deck, got all my photographic equipment ready 
and in focus, paying particular attention to the larger camera 
with its long bellows extension that I would use on the emerging 
insects. The sun shone throughout all the twenty-four hours now 
except for fifteen minutes of Arctic twilight in which the world 
became slightly grayed and then burst into color again after 
the quarter of an hour had passed. My vigil was continuous. 
His Excellency lent me books to read, including his own Green- 
mantle and The Thirty-Nine Steps, which I took great delight 
in rereading. I seldom left my deck chair even to eat a meal. My 
fellow passengers kept me nourished while I waited. 

On his daily constitutional around the deck, His Ex, as we 
called him, would call out to me, "Hey, Maggie, when is the 
blessed event coming?" 

The captain of the ship offered to stop the vessel as soon as 
I started taking pictures, so I would not be troubled with vibra- 
tion. 

On a Sunday morning, when we were in the middle of Great 
Bear Lake, almost precisely on the Arctic Circle, the first chrys- 
alis started to split right down the back, and soon the others 
followed. And then began their twisting and writhing, fighting 
to get out of their outworn shells. Under our eyes the swollen 
wing veins began dilating until the little crumpled stumps of 
wings had grown to full size. All this was happening so fast that 
I hardly had time to look up, but when I did, I saw that His 



i 5 8 



HIS EXCELLENCY AND THE BUTTERFLIES 




His Excellency took a great interest in my butterflies. Everyone 
helped 'when they hatched aboard ship in the Arctic. 



Excellency was on my right side holding reflectors as I worked, 
and on my left was the aide-de-camp, handing me things as I 
needed them. At the end of twenty minutes, we had ten beauti- 
ful mourning cloak butterflies. The captain started the boat 
again and the engines began to turn. "For thirty years," he said, 
"I've sailed this ship, and I never stopped it even if a man fell 
overboard, and here I stop it for a damn butterfly." The butter- 
flies took kindly to meals of sugar-and-water sirup, unrolling 
their tongues like elephants' trunks, and sucking up the sweet 



HIS EXCELLENCY AND THE BUTTERFLIES 159 

mixture. I was sure that these butterflies were farther north than 
any butterfly had ever traveled. 

At Fort Smith we picked up mail and telegrams and an Angli- 
can minister and his bride, who were being dispatched to a more 
northerly post. The radio operator climbed up to the deck and 
with a wide smile said, "We have been searching all over for 
someone who fits this telegram." And walking up to me, he said, 
"We've decided you are the likeliest candidate." The address 
read, HONEYCHILE, ARCTIC CIRCLE, CANADA, and the message in- 
side said, COME HOME AND MARRY ME. Signed Skinny. 

At Fort Norman I received two cables. One from my editors, 
which delighted me, asked me to charter a plane and fly over 
the Arctic Ocean to see what it looked like in the summertime. 
The second telegram was addressed HONEYCHILE, ARCTIC REGION. 
This one was in a darker mood. When in heaven's name was I 
coming home? He missed me, he loved me, the new apartment 
he was moving into was an unfinished cathedral without me. 
Why wouldn't I come right straight home and marry him? 
Unsigned. 

Dear me. We had talked this over so often. I did not want to 
marry again. It was not that I was against marriage, despite my 
initial unhappy experience. But I had carved out a different kind 
of life now. To me it was of the utmost importance to complicate 
my living as little as possible. The very secret of life for me, I 
believed, was to maintain in the midst of rushing events an inner 
tranquility. I had picked a life that dealt with excitement, trag- 
edy, mass calamities, human triumphs and human suffering. To 
throw my whole self into recording and attempting to under- 
stand these things, I needed an inner serenity as a kind of balance. 
This was something I could not have if I was torn apart for fear 
of hurting someone every time an assignment of this kind came 
up. 

It was this emphasis on coming home in his telegram that 
concerned me most of all. The marriage part could be judged 
on its own merits when the time came, but the insistence on 
homecoming was something else. There was a puzzling insecu- 
rity in this withdrawn man which I was sure held a threat to my 
future work. I wanted no conflict of loyalties that would be too 
painful. My first loyalty was to Life. There was no secret about 



I( 5o HIS EXCELLENCY AND THE BUTTERFLIES 

it. My professional work came first. This is certainly not a unique 
problem, and I'm sure that many professional women, and men 
too, have had this difficulty in one form or another. How they 
resolve it is a highly personal thing. Dashing off at a moment's 
notice around the globe is wonderful if you are doing the dash- 
ing yourself. But if you are the one who stays behind, it must be 

hard to bear. 

As we worked our way north, distributing our assorted sup- 
plies, no matter how small the hamlet, even if only a Hudson's 
Bay fur-trading post, a couple of clapboard houses and a church 
and radio tower, someone would climb aboard asking, "Is there 
anyone in your party named Honeychile?" 

Dependent on each other as the residents of the Arctic zone 
were in those days, the dispersal of news assumed an over-the- 
back-fence quality. With radio stations hundreds of miles apart, 
everybody within reach listened in whether the messages were 
for their station or not, and they heard Skinny's telegrams to 
me as well as my affectionate replies. Where radio left off, the 
moccasin telegraph took over. So my warm wooing through the 
Arctic zone was followed and enjoyed by all. 

At Tuktoyaktuk, our most northerly port of call a mere land 
spit curving out into the Arctic Ocean, covered with Eskimo 
dogs straining so wildly at their chains that it seemed as though 
they would tear their rocky promontory right out of the sca- 
the viceregal party prepared to fly south. Since this was about as 
far north as we could go without taking off for the North Pole, 
I released the four surviving butterflies here, so they could con- 
tinue the trip under their own wingpower. 

They were launched with a suitable ceremony, after eating 
their last breakfast of sugar-and-water sirup with a few drops of 
rum added. His Excellency and the other members of the vice- 
regal party stood at attention while four slightly intoxicated 
butterflies took off in a wavering flight pattern and fluttered in 
a vaguely northbound course, navigating, we hoped, toward the 
North Pole. 

With the departure of His Excellency and the four butterflies, 
I set about to charter a plane as Life had directed. Chartering a 
plane in the Arctic was not easy, I soon discovered. There 
were very few planes that far north, and these flew the Royal 



HIS EXCELLENCY AND THE BUTTERFLIES l6l 

Canadian mail. The pilots could take on a limited amount of 
charter work, as long as you agreed to give priority to outposts 
where the pilot had to deliver the mail. 

These early bush pilots were a remarkable race of men who 
had to fly by their fingertips over terrain never adequately 
mapped because it disappeared under its great ice load for ten 
months out of the year. The flyers did anything from rushing an 
expectant Eskimo mother who might be in need of a Caesarean 
operation several hundred miles for medical help to stuffing a 
whole yelping protesting dog team into the tail of the plane to 
fly them inland to some fur trapper. 

While searching for an airplane, I ran into two extraordinary 
characters who became my partners in this enterprise. The first 
was a full-fledged bishop, who commuted at regular intervals to 
London, where he reported directly to the Archbishop of Canter- 
bury. Once every other year he flew to the most desolate and 
remote corners of his diocese to minister to his Eskimo com- 
municants. Following the custom by which a bishop takes the 
name of his diocese as his surname, he was known as "Archibald 
the Arctic." His Grace was a spry, gay, resourceful little man, 
as businesslike as a corporation executive. 

The other member of our party was a British composer who 
wrote travel books in addition to writing music. He was Dr. 
Thomas Wood, whose book, Cobbers on Australia was widely 
read through the British Empire, and the fruits of this trip were 
intended to provide a volume on the Dominion of Canada. "Doc" 
was plump, wonderfully genial, quick with repartee, and warmly 
sensitive to the needs of others. It was only after I had come 
to know him better that I learned how little of the world filtered 
through those round blue eyes of his. He was almost blind. Doc 
had never flown before. He had wanted for his first flight not 
merely some routine airplane trip such as a ferry flight over the 
English Channel, but something very special. As it turned out, 
this trip was indeed special. 

Doc went off with the bishop and negotiated for an airplane. 
With the combined resources of the Church, Lif e, and the world 
of music and letters, we chartered a plane of ancient vintage, 
with the old-fashioned corrugated aluminum walls, flown by 
Art Rankin, who was blond, handsome and experienced in the 



1 62 HIS EXCELLENCY AND THE BUTTERFLIES 

barren lands bordering the Arctic Ocean. He was an excellent 
pilot and, at the time of writing, is traffic manager for the great 
network of Trans-Canada Air Lines. 

While they were away on this errand, 1 fell heir to a perfect 
Arctic costume. I had dropped in the tiny clapboard Hudson's 
Bay store which sold everything from powdered milk to sewing 
machines. A trapper who was buying canned groceries came up 
to me and in the midst of his almost unbearable shyness burst out 
that I was the same shape and size as his wife. I could think of 
no suitable reply to this. Then he told me his sad little tale. 
Some years earlier, he had induced his wife to come up from 
their home in Minnesota to join him. In preparation, he had 
arranged for an Eskimo woman to make one of the beautiful 
hooded fur parkas styled like a dress, which usually they made 
only for members of their own families. The trapper's wife ar- 
rived, took one look at the Far North and went back to Minne- 
spta. The dress had been lying ever since on the back shelf of a 
trading post called Coppermine, and if I happened to show up 
there and would give the storekeeper a letter he had written, 
I could have it. 

Since Coppermine was several hundred miles away over a 
seldom-traveled portion of the Canadian Arctic, it seemed un- 
likely that I would ever be able to collect my parka. But when 
the bishop returned with Art Rankin and a copilot, I learned 
that Art had to throw off a mailbag there. At Coppermine, the 
bishop took the opportunity to give a service in the little Copper- 
mine church, and I presented my letter to the storekeeper and 
received the dress. It was made of the smoothest caribou fur, 
trimmed with darts of white reindeer breast, and very beautiful. 
The hood was edged with wolverine fur, which, aside from 
being very flattering to the face, has the practical advantage of 
not frosting over with the breath. Close to the sea as we were, 
there was a penetrating coolness even in summer, and I was glad 
to have my fur parka to slip on over the ski suit I was wearing. 
It had only one disadvantage. Photographers need lots of pockets, 
and Eskimo women don't put any in their parkas (except for the 
big pouch they sometimes put in back to hold the baby, and mine 
wasn't that kind), so whenever I reached into my ski pants for a 
filter or lens, I had to pull up my fur dress in a most inconvenient 
and unladylike manner. 

In the Far North, I wore a parka of caribou trimmed with white reindeer 
breast and a hood lined in wolverine fur. This lovely outfit was given to 
me by a trapper. Photographed by His Grace Archibald the Arctic. 



164 HIS EXCELLENCY AND THE BUTTERFLIES 

Once we were airborne and headed toward Cameron Bay a 
tiny town 350 miles away, where the bishop planned to deliver 
a sermon he settled back in a single chair in the rear of the 
plane and composed his sermon, which he would deliver in an 
Eskimo tongue. Then His Grace took a siesta. Art had removed 
the door, leaving a big square gap to take pictures through. As 
an extra precaution, he had tied a strong rope around my waist in 
case I fell out. When Doc thought I was leaning out imprudently 
far, he would grab hold of my caribou skirt and gently drag 
me back. 

The low sun poured streams of thick gold flowing sluggishly 
like molasses. Below us were curving paths and whorls of floating 
ice patterned like the lacy penmanship exercises of the old 
Spencerian system. These were not icebergs, but it was impos- 
sible to gauge how big the pieces of ice were or how they had 
come to drift in such entrancing patterns; they were, I suppose, 
obedient to some ghostly, hidden current moving sluggishly in 
the depths of the sea. 

I was very busy photographing these spindling trails and was 
describing them to Doc, who was begging for details like a man 
thirsty for color, and I was glad to be there to administer to his 
remarkable inner eye. Then I realized there was no more color 
to describe. We were flyingdrifting, it seemed in our antique 
aircraft through a world of pearly radiance where it was im- 
possible to tell where the sky ended and the sea began. Then 
ice and sea and sky lost their boundaries and all turned gray 
together. We had run into one of those sudden treacherous fogs 
that begin rolling in from the open Arctic just after the midnight 
sun has passed. With the magnetic pole only about 200 miles 
away, there was nothing for Art to do but look for a place to 
bring the plane down as quickly as possible. 

Art was putting the plane into searching dives and spins 
downward. I looked over and reported while Doc held tightly 
to my caribou parka. Once I caught a glimpse of two rocks 
side by side, lashed by an uneasy sea, as Art swooped down for 
a closer look. He didn't like what he learned, apparently, and 
on we flew. All of us knew quite well we were using precious 
gas as we looked for a haven rather than be driven to land on 
the open sea. Then we found it. A rocky crescent the shape 



HIS EXCELLENCY AND THE BUTTERFLIES 165 

of a quarter-moon, curving protectively around the sliver of an 
inlet. 

"That's our future home," shouted Art. I leaned out and I 
took one swift shot of the rocky crescent in the empty sea before 
Art brought us down. As though he were jumping from a canoe 
to the grassy shore of a shallow brook, Art leaped from the pon- 
toon to the stony bank with the painter in his hand, quickly tied 
our aircraft to the rock and then got us out promptly. He di- 
rected us to follow him off the pontoons. "Don't fall in," he 
called out. We all had heard that strong swimmers become help- 
lessly paralyzed in less than four minutes in Arctic waters. 

I have often wondered what kind of people I would want to 
be with if I were cast on a desert island. These were four perfect 
people for the role. The bishop did just what only an Anglican 
bishop would think of doing. He pulled out his Episcopal banner 
from his suitcase and claimed the island for Ws Church. He 
looked around for something on which he could hang the banner, 
but there was nothing higher than the yellow Arctic poppies 
which were then in their short-lived August profusion. He hung 
the Church pennant on the propeller of the airplane. Having 
ministered first to his Church, he turned next to minister to his 
fellowmen. In the English language, that meant tea. So the 
bishop set out to collect driftwood for kindling. It would be hard 
to imagine a more incongruous sight than the bishop, dressed 
perfectly in his black leather jerkin, his beehive-shaped hat, with 
the heavy golden cross which always swung from his neck, 
scrambling over the wild rocks picking up little twigs. There is 
almost no driftwood on the rim of the Arctic Ocean, but some- 
how His Grace managed to find enough to brew a pot of tea, 
which helped us all. Over tea, the pilot briefed us on the situation. 
This he did superbly. Without minimizing the more serious fac- 
tors of our unlucky predicament, he told us how things stacked 
up without alarming us either. 

We were on one of the barren Lewes River islands, and about 
300 miles from the nearest known habitation. He had tried to 
report our forced landing, but our radio was not strong enough 
to make contact. He could hear the Coppermine station calling 
us, but they couldn't hear us. They would talk to us every hour 
on the hour for five minutes, they announced, keeping the 



r< 56 HIS EXCELLENCY AND THE BUTTERFLIES 

channels open in the hope of picking us up. The fog coulcHast 
for six hours or six weeks. The plane carried the regulation iron 
rations-for one man for twenty days. But of course, Art added 
jokingly-we were all of us trying to joke by that time-he could 
divide the rations into five equal piles on different points of the 
island, for each of us to eat slowly or quickly as we wished. 

At this point the copilot reported two unexpected assets. One 
was a large Arctic hare which he had glimpsed, and since there 
was no chance for it to get off the island until the freeze-up, this 
would guarantee us one day of grace. The other was a fresh- 
water spring. 

From that hour we began what in retrospect seems like a 
strange timeless existence. With no regular night to divide up 
the days, but just the two hours of semidarkness, we lay down 
on the rocks and napped whenever we felt sleepy. I was sur- 
prised at how much fun we had. The bishop told wonderful 
stories. Doc compbsed little nonsense songs, and we all came in 
on the chorus. We devised games, built piles of rocks for targets 
and had stone-throwing contests. Probably never on a desert 
island has there been such an adequate supply of photographic 
film, and all our activities were thoroughly documented. 

Art always hung on the radio, trying to contact the outside 
world. It was strange to hear the voice speaking to us when we 
could not answer back, calling, "Art Rankin's plane unreported. 
Please come in, ArtRankin." 

Each hour the sending station talked to us for five minutes, 
passing on to us what little scraps of weather information they 
could, since in those days there were no adequate weather fore- 
casts for the polar region. In one broadcast, after giving us the 
weather, they announced a message for Honeychile: "When 
are you coming home?" Signed Skinny. That was a question we 
all wanted answered. 

"We should tell him to come here," said the copilot dryly. 
"Here we have a bishop to marry you." 

It was toward the end of what I guess was the second day 
when the fog lifted just a little. Art called us in a great hurry 
and said we were to leave immediately. 

Our island had hardly disappeared into the distance before we 
flew into torrents of rain. If we had been a few minutes later in 



HIS EXCELLENCY AND THE BUTTERFLIES 167 

making our takeoff, I doubt if we could have reached our desti- 
nation. After two hours of flying, the short twilight began 
closing in, once more blotting out the sea beneath, but this time 
with the added threat of growing darkness. It was a miracle when 
through the driving storm we saw below us the tiniest-imaginable 
settlement on a little finger of rock. Just two frame buildings, 
one with a steeple, and a handful of Eskimo tents, We circled in 
for a landing. 

The Hudson's Bay store was deserted. Apparently no one had 
expected us, and they had all gone fishing except for a young 
Eskimo named Mark, who was in charge of the building, half 
store and half house. His Grace, who had finally succeeded in 
reaching his flock, in what was probably the most difficult and 
tortured trip a bishop ever had to make to bring salvation, found 
there was no one there to receive it. 

Plainly, his parishioners had departed in a hurry, leaving un- 
made cots and a mountainous accumulation of pots, pans, knives, 
forks, dishes. 

His Grace spoke sternly. "If we can't have godliness, at least 
we can have cleanliness," and he started to wash the dishes. Doc 
and I tried very hard to help him, but he was a difficult man to 
help. He reached for knives and forks by the handful, doused 
them, and threw them on the kitchen table with a vehemence 
that kept us ducking. I had never before seen a bishop wash 
dishes in such a mood, and certainly I hope never to see such a 
sad sight again. 

We explored our hut. There was no danger of starving here. 
There was enough canned food for several winters. There was 
even more a dusty Victrola of the hand-crank kind and a 
wealth of aged records so we held a dance. Airmen, I've often 
noticed, have a wonderful sense of rhythm and are always good 
dancers. Maybe I had to come all the way to the Arctic to accom- 
plish it, but I was no wallflower here. 

The weather began to clear. Filling our tanks from a cache of 
gas which had been left three years before by a whaling vessel, 
we took off for Aklavik. There, our party, by now bound to- 
gether in ties of great affection, had to separate. At last, I was 
able to telegraph the message that I had started home. At Yellow- 
knife, where we touched down for food, fuel and messages, the 



1 68 HIS EXCELLENCY AND THE BUTTERFLIES 

radio operator wasted not a word in asking questions. With a 
broad smile, he handed me my Honeychile cable. It read, DON'T 

SPARE THE HORSES. 

Back in the U.S.A., I stopped at the Chicago airport to change 
planes for New York. The announcing system was blaring its 
loudest. The crowds were so noisy that I could not catch a syl- 
lable. Someone was being paged. There was a familiar yet un- 
familiar ring about it. Then the din battened down a little and I 
heard, "Paging Child Bride, eastbound passenger for New York. 
Paging Child Bride. Will Child Bride kindly step to the ticket 
counter?" I went to the counter and claimed my telegram. 
It read, "WELCOME, WELCOME, WELCOME, WELCOME." 



169 



CHAPTER XIV 

LOVE 
IN RENO 



FINALLY a time comes when it is just too 
troublesome to remain unmarried. For me, this time came when 
Erskine and I were returning on the Aquitania after half a year 
in Europe. I had been covering the Sudeten crisis for Life, and 
together, Erskine and I had been collecting material for a new 
book we were working on, called North of the Danube. 

The Aquitania slipped into New York harbor early in the 
morning and was boarded by a contingent of ship's reporters 
and photographers. For once, I found myself on the opposite side 
of the lens and camera. Reacting for a change, not as a news- 
gathering photographer but as a private citizen, I found myself 
unreasonably annoyed when the ship's photographers whipped 
out tape measures and measured the distance from Erslone's 
cabin to mine. When the reporters, in all kindness, took an 
"eventually, why not now?" attitude in their questions, I was 
irritated to the marrow. 

Forgetting for the moment that I was resenting an invasion 
of privacy to which I had subjected untold scores of unwilling 
victims without giving it a thought, I blurted out in a childish 
way, "I'm not going to marry him, no matter how many photog- 
raphers and reporters want me to." 

Why should I marry this fascinating, gifted, difficult man? 
There were plenty of reasons why I should not marry him. 
Erskine had a very difficult attitude toward my magazine, a kind 
of jealousy, not toward any man, but concentrated on Life maga- 



1 70 LOVE IN RENO 

zine itself. Our friendship had been strewn with danger signals- 
the unpredictable, frozen moods that seemed to have no traceable 
cause in a world of reality, the unfathomable silences ending only 
in violent tempests. I could not put out of my mind the difficult 
situations that had taken place on this very trip. Many times, 
it seemed to me I was bringing only half of myself to the sub- 
jects I wanted to understand and photograph. My first thoughts 
had to go toward Erskine and his moods, and my fondest hopes 
were that the hidden glaciers would not come to the surface in 
the middle of an important series of pictures. 

The memory was still painful of the Easter trip we had 
planned to take to a village on the Hungarian border of Czecho- 
slovakia. Erskine had been interested in seeing village life. When 
the man who was acting as Press Officer for the Czechoslovakian 
government arranged to send us to a village on the Hungarian 
border, Erskine was delighted and so was I. Then the Press Of- 
ficer and his wife decided to go with us to make sure everything 
on the trip went well. All I could do was to hope and pray that 
Erskine would last without having one of the great freeze-ups. 
We got splendid pictures, and Erskine was interested in what we 
had found. Through the inevitable lengthy dinner that capped 
the day, he had been chatting happily with our host and hostess. 
Over coif ee and liqueurs, the cool breeze began to blow. His face 
turned white and his skin was drawn, and the Press Officer and 
his wife began asking themselves agonizing questions: "What 
could we have done to offend Mr. Caldwell?" I was particularly 
troubled because this couple was so hospitable and kind. I am 
sure Skinny did not intend to cause this distress. I believe he was 
largely unaware of what was happening, for basically he was 
sensitive and almost uncannily perceptive about others. But this 
ungracious behavior prevented the closeness to the people we 
should have had. I felt my pictures lacked the depth I wanted 
to give them. Later, when North of the Danube came out in 
book form, I believed that it added little to the understanding 
of this interesting country facing a crisis. Certainly nothing of 
the loving thoroughness went into North of the Danube that 
went into You Have Seen Their Faces. 

I think it was the innocent victims of Erskine's moods that 
distressed me the most. I could not forget incidents such as the 



LOVE IN RENO 171 

evening a Life writer, a worshiping disciple of Erskine's, joined 
us for supper. For some reason that no one could define, he was 
subjected to a Class A freeze-up. The Life writer and I manu- 
factured conversation as long as we were able, until finally all 
three of us lapsed into silence and longed for the meal to end 
so we could escape. I felt there must be some reasonable limit to 
how far one maneuvers to serve the moods of another. 

Basically, my feeling was that here was a fine and very worth- 
while man, whose inner insecurity was beginning to act as a 
blind against the world. He often told me that he had no close 
friends. Perhaps it was this essential loneliness that sharpened 
his need of me. 

I remember poignantly one occasion on which I tried to leave 
him. My mind was made up, but how would I break the news? 
Erskine was driving me from the Pacific coast, where I had done - 
a Life story on Hollywood, to an airport in Arizona. As we 
threaded our way through a channel of somber buttes rising from 
the desert floor, I was trying to find the words. 

When I got up my courage and told him my decision, he 
stopped the car and we talked it out on the empty sancjswept 
road. My ears still ring with his agonized words, "You can't 
leave us, Kit. You can't leave us." He was right. I couldn't 
not yet. 

It is often said that a woman is most strongly drawn to the 
man who needs her the most. I had always considered myself too 
selfish to be governed by such a motive. But there must be 
something to it. Perhaps if I became his wife, it would lighten 
the burden of insecurity which he seemed unable to cast off. 
I would not be satisfied until I had explored all possibilities 
thoroughly. If marriage would help, I was willing to try. 

I had a plan. If Erskine would consent to it, I felt that our 
marriage would have a chance. He did consent to it and we 
boarded a plane for Nevada. Erskine chose this state because it 
issues wedding licenses immediately. 

Once on the airplane, I worked on the plan and drew up a 
sort of marriage contract. The first point was that if some diffi- 
culty arose between us, we must talk it out before midnight; two, 
he should treat my friends as courteously as his own; he must 
attempt to realize and control his fluctuating moods, and there 



172 LOVE IN RENO 

must be no attempts to snatch me away from photographic 
assignments. 

We were flying over the great desert reaches of Utah and 
Nevada when Skinny signed this formidable document, and at 
least that was behind us. 

The plane would make a fuel stop in Reno. 

Nobody wants to be married in Reno, so while still aloft, we 
borrowed the pilot's chart and hunted for a town within a 
hundred-mile radius which had a pretty name. We were both 
delighted when we found Silver City within the mileage limit. 

At Reno, we made our way to the courthouse and with our 
license received a slender volume called Cupid's Cook Book. We 
stepped into a taxi and told the driver we wanted to go to Silver 
City. 

Being wise in the ways of his special world, the taxi driver 
realized that we were much too friendly to be in Reno for the 
usual purpose. He was a practical man and said, "Silver City's 
a ghost town. If you two think you're going to get married in 
Silver City, you may be disappointed because there aren't any 
ministers there. You better take your minister along with you. 
And you will need witnesses. I can be one of them but you better 
find another." 

The taxi driver took things into his own hands. We were 
passing through famous old Carson City, and in the sprawling 
old hotel the taxi driver found a minister sitting right in the 
lobby. This was no ordinary minister. He was also a State Repre- 
sentative who had come to Carson City for a convention. He was 
delighted to officiate at this totally unexpected wedding and 
entered into our plans with cordial enthusiasm. 

As we drove toward Silver City, the landscape became wilder. 
It was growing late in the afternoon, and we still had a con- 
siderable distance to go. Erskine said, "Cattle trading isn't legal 
after sundown, and I want this marriage to be legal." 

We rounded a curve and there was Silver City, hanging on a 
bluff above us, looking so charming that both of us knew that 
this was the perfect town. It was indeed a ghost town, deserted 
but for a few durable citizens. On the highest bluff was a church. 
The door was locked. 

The taxi driver searched the town and found a small tobacco 




Erskine and I went to Hawaii for our honeymoon. 

shop open. He came running back to us to bring us the good 
news. The woman who ran it had the key to the church, and 
"Also," said the driver, "she's a nice, clean woman. She can be 
one of the witnesses." 

Erskine and I were enchanted with the church. The seat cush- 
ions had slid off the benches onto the floor, and the dust of years 
had accumulated. Through the windows we could see the glori- 
ous panorama of bluff s and mesas and desert patches, stretching 
as far as the eye could reach. The golden coin of the sun was 
barely touching the rim of the horizon, and its measured descent 
took just time enough to suit Erskine's requirement that we be 
married before sundown. 



174 



CHAPTER XV 



I 

PHOTOGRAPH 
STALIN 

1 HE FIRST TRIP Erskine and I took together 
after our marriage carried us almost around the globe. We were 
headed toward Russia on an extraordinary hunch of Wilson 
Hicks, my picture editor at Life. With World War II in full 
swing in Europe, and the non-aggression pact between Germany 
and Russia in existence, Wilson was quite sure that things would 
vitally change, that Germany would be fighting Russia and that 
Russia would become a key country in the march of the war. 
Also, he felt I could make some valuable comparisons between 
the Russia of ten years ago and contemporary Russia, which was 
almost as much of a mystery as before. Erskine had always been 
eager to go because his books were read widely in the Soviet 
Union. 

Since most of Europe had fallen to the Germans by the spring 
of 1941, we had to go the long way around and enter war-torn 
China at Chungking, flying across Inner Mongolia, skirting the 
edge of the Gobi Desert, flying over Sinkiang, the Soviet- 
Giinese border province, until we entered the southeastern door- 
way of Russia at Alma-Ata. 

Even in the dusty Asian town of Alma-Ata, I could see that 
an important change had taken place since my last trip of ten 
years earlier. In the central square stood a statue of Stalin in 



I PHOTOGRAPH STALIN 175 

heroic proportions. Other large statues of Stalin dotted the parks 
and crowded the post-office lobby. Where there wasn't room for 
a statue, a life-sized painting was installed, usually showing the 
benign Stalin, surrounded by flowers, and smiling at small chil- 
dren. I recalled that in the time of the first Five-Year Plan, great 
red banners formed the backdrop of every schoolhouse audi- 
torium and factory meeting hall, with silhouettes of Lenin and 
Marx. Now it was Lenin and Stalin or only Stalin. 

Among the many new developments, I found Stalin's birth- 
place had developed, too. This I discovered when we traveled 
to Gori. A remarkable shrine of marble and glass soared over 
the unpretentious wooden house where Stalin was said to have 
been born. The skylight was decorated with hammer and sickle 
set in leaded glass panes. Covered with a red-embroidered bed- 
spread was the bed where little Josef was supposed to have 
come into the world. 

I recalled the controversy between Gori and Didi-Lilo for the 
honor of being Stalin's birthplace. Whatever the rights and 
wrongs of the dispute, there was no denying that Gori was a 
more convenient birthplace for worshipful pilgrims to visit than 
the remote village I had been taken to when I photographed 
Stalin's great-aunt and all the relatives. 

Exactly one month after Erskine and I entered the country, 
war broke out between Germany and Russia. Wilson Hicks had 
made a shrewd guess when he foresaw that the non-aggression 
pact would collapse and Germany and Russia would be fighting 
each other. Immediately on the outbreak of hostilities, the mili- 
tary authorities issued a ukase forbidding the use of cameras; 
anyone seen with a camera ran the risk of being seized and im- 
prisoned. Here was I, facing the biggest scoop of my life: the 
biggest country enters the biggest war in the world and I was 
the only photographer on the spot, representing any publication 
and coming from any foreign country. I felt sure I could cope 
with the anti-camera law somehow. But the first problem was to 
be allowed to stay on the scene of action. 

When a war breaks out, an ambassador always has to evacuate 
somebody, and there was hardly anybody left but us. The Ameri- 
can Ambassador, Laurence Steinhardt, called us to the Embassy 
in Moscow. Erskine counseled me, "Don't talk too much. Let the 



Ij6 I PHOTOGRAPH STALIN 

Ambassador feel he's doing his duty. The less we argue, the better 
chance we have." 

Ambassador Steinhardt warned us that it was his duty to pro- 
tect the lives of American citizens. "No one knows how soon 
Moscow will be bombed," he said. "And when it begins, the loss 
of life and destruction are bound to be terrible. There are still 
two seats left on the train to Vladivostok; it might be your last 
chance. However," he continued, after ^a -meaningful pause, "if 
after thinking over the perils to which you are exposing yourself, 
and if after seriously weighing the dangers involved, it is your 
considered action to stay, our Embassy will help in every" 

He had no chance to finish, for within the next instant, the 
United States Envoy and Plenipotentiary Extraordinary found 
himself being kissed by a photographer. 

During the first few weeks of bombing, it required something 
of a military maneuver to be able to see the raids at all. Erskine 
and I, along with everyone not actually on the rooftops for 
fire-fighting duty, were ordered underground into the shelters. 

The Russians are nothing if not thorough. When the sirens 
sounded, the blackout wardens would search our hotel apart- 
ment to make sure we were not staying in our rooms during the 
raid. Of course, in our own Embassy, we were free of such 
restrictions, and I could stay aboveground to photograph the 
nightly spectacle in the heavens. 

One night, Erskine went off to the radio station to give a 
broadcast to America, and I stayed alone on the Embassy roof 
and began putting my camera to work. Incendiary bombs were 
falling, and flames began shooting up in scattered spots, giving 
me pinpoints of light on which I could focus on the ground 
glass of the view camera. The drone of German planes sounded 
overhead, and the beams of searchlights swung upward, crossing 
and recrossing, until the whole sky was covered with a luminous 
plaid design. 

I cannot tell what it was that made me know the bomb of the 
evening was on its way. It was not sound and it was not light, 
but a kind of contraction in the atmosphere which told me I 
must move quickly. It seemed minutes, but it must have been 
split seconds, in which I had time to pick up my camera, to 
climb through the Ambassador's window, to lay the camera 



I PHOTOGRAPH STALIN 177 

down carefully on the far side of the rug and lie down beside it 
myself. Then it came. All the windows of the house fell in, and 
the Ambassador's office windows rained down on me. Fortu- 
nately, a heavy ventilator blown in from the windowsill missed 
me by a comfortable margin. I did not know until later that 
my fingertips were cut by glass splinters. I only knew the shelter 
in the basement would be a very pleasant place to be. Getting 
down the grand staircase over the piles of broken glass in my 
open-toed sandals was the longest journey of my life. 

At dawn, Erskine got back from the radio station. The all- 
clear sounded. We were about to start home, when it suddenly 
occurred to me that I was leaving a lot of good news pictures 
behind. It was too dark to take photographs, so I went back, and 
on the highest piles of glass I placed a note: "Don't sweep up 
glass until I come back with camera." I returned later in the day, 
took my shots and hurried them off to Life, which ran a lead 
story showing these first pictures of the bombing of Moscow. 

The most useful feature of our hotel suite was its delicate 
balcony, which faced the Kremlin, the onion-shaped domes of 
St. Basil's, Lenin's tomb and Red Square giving a magnificent 
Moscow panorama against which I could photograph air raids. 
The balcony had elements of history. Trotsky had stood here, 
giving a last address before his fall from power. Here, Charles 
and Anne Lindbergh had faced the enthusiastic crowds on their 
historic flight around the world as a husband-and-wife team. 

The hotel suite possessed a Czarist magnificence. Cupids 
swung from the chandeliers, and the drawing room was furnished 
with a grand piano, a great white bear rug, and many statuettes 
of Ural Mountain marble. Its prominent feature was a gold- 
fluted pillar bearing on its summit a bust of Napoleon. 

I did my developing in the enormous cave of the bathroom. 
Taking a bath was difficult because the tub was always full of 
trays of developer. In the morning, the ceiling was dripping with 
films that hung from cords stretched back and forth between the 
high water pipes and pinned to the edges of towels and window 
curtains. My working was made more complicated by the fact 
that the air-raid alarm usually caught me with three or four film 
packs in the tub in the process of developing. I would dive under 
the bed to hide away from the dutiful inspectors. While the 



178 I PHOTOGRAPH STALIN 

search went on, I counted the seconds and minutes, hoping I 
could get back to the tub before the films were too badly over- 
developed. 

Erskine thought it undignified to crawl under beds. His choice 
was the corner behind the sofa. To make sure he was thoroughly 
hidden, he pulled the bearskin rug over his head and shoulders. 
There he would sit, in all his dignity, staring from the corner 
like a big Russian bear. 

The nights took on a curious routine. While the action was 
still confined to the outer defense rings in the distance, I had a 
multitude of preparations to make. All the art objects had to be 
moved against the far wall and under the piano. After my experi- 
ence with miscellaneous articles shooting inward at the Embassy, 
I did not wish to be knocked out with a brass lamp or agate 
inkstand. 

It is strange how in a bombing everything in the room seems 
to rise up against you and become your enemy. The Napoleon 
pillar was too heavy to move, and in the darkness and the vibra- 
tion, I feared Napoleon more than Hitler. 

When the bric-a-brac was stowed away, the room was my 
workshop. Once I began viewing the skyline through the ground 
glass of the camera, my world became one of composing streaks 
and dashes of light, of judging the lengths of exposures, of trying 
to make each sheet of film bring out the most dramatic portions 
of the spectacle of lights unfolding before the lens. 

I would creep out on the balcony quietly so as not to attract 
the attention of the soldiers on guard in Red Square below, and 
place two cameras shooting in opposite directions so they would 
cover as much of the sky as possible. Usually I set two additional 
cameras with telephoto lenses on the wide marble windowsill. 
How I used them would depend on the size of the raid. To me, 
the severity of a raid was measured by whether it was a two- 
camera, three-camera, or four-camera night. But I never operated 
all five cameras at once. My fifth camera I transferred to the 
Embassy basement. The possibility of being left without a single 
camera grew to be an obsession, so I took care to divide the risk. 

Every night there was something to photograph, because 
whether it was a light air raid or a heavy one, the Germans 
managed to aim at least one bomb at the Kremlin. I remember 



I PHOTOGRAPH STALIN 179 

one spectacular night when the Germans dropped eleven para- 
chute flares like mammoth blazing parasols floating to earth and 
lighting up the whole central section of the city. With flares 
overhead, you feel absolutely undressed. You feel the enemy can 
see you wherever you are. The German bombers were droning 
overhead as though they were looking for something. 

Then the loudest bomb scream I have ever heard sent me 
running back to an inside closet, while the bomb executed its in- 
terminable descent. When it landed, my cameras were blown 
into the room by the bomb blast. I hurried out to the balcony. 
Just within the Kremlin wall, an enormous plume began rising 
into the air. It seemed to hang there, frozen against the moonlit 
sky, until stones and boards began dropping out of it. The 
Germans had scored their hit and blown up a Kremlin palace. 
It was not the palace where Stalin had his offices, but one occu- 
pied by the Kremlin guard. Neither this nor any other hit made 
on the Kremlin was ever permitted by the censors to be released 
in news dispatches. 

There is something unearthly about being on an open roof 
or balcony during a raid. The sky is so startlingly big, with its 
probing spears of searchlights and lines of fire, that man seems 
too small to count at all. In the first look at war, one feels im- 
mune; the spectacle is so strange, so remote, that it has no reality 
in terms of death or danger. But how quickly this feeling of 
immunity vanishes when one sees people killed! 

Air raids affect people in various ways. Some grow very hun- 
gry afterwards. Others become sleepy. I was one of the sleeping 
kind. When the guns grew quieter, I would drop off at once, 
often right on the windowsill beside the cameras. Sometimes a 
wave of planes would come back, and the blasting of the guns 
on the rooftops nearby would jar me awake. I would start up 
to see the square below dancing with fireflies as the shrapnel 
tinkled down on the pavement. But as soon as the sound grew 
softer, I would be back in slumber on the marble ledge, my 
cameras, set for time exposures, still recording any streaks of 
light that might flash through the sky. 

When my husband got back from broadcasting, we would get 
into the wide bed that had held the Lindberghs, and Trotsky. 
We were very comfortable under the yellow satin quilts as we 



1 82 I PHOTOGRAPH STALIN 

dozed off. Finally, at dawn, we would hear the loudspeaker above 
us call out, "The enemy has been beaten back, comrades. Go 
home to your rest." As confused voices rose from thousands of 
people leaving the immense subway shelter, we would fall into 
a deep sleep. 

On previous trips to Russia, I tried in a routine way to get 
permission to photograph Stalin. I had never had even an ac- 
knowledgment of my request. 

Success came finally shortly after Russia entered the war, 
when she felt she needed American good will. It was during this 
brief honeymoon period that President Roosevelt sent Lend- 
Lease Administrator Harry Hopkins to Russia as his personal 
envoy. Hopkins really went to bat for me and prevailed upon 
Molotov to get permission to photograph Stalin. 

I gave some thought to what I should wear. Knowing that 
Russians like red, I put on red shoes and tied a red bow in my 
hair. 

The Kremlin car called for me and drove me through the 
Kremlin gate to the palace where Stalin had his office. An escort 
of soldiers took me up in a little gilt, red-carpeted elevator to 
the second floor. 

I was led through a long, winding hall. I must have passed 
a hundred doors. Each corridor branched off at an oblique 
angle. At each turning, soldiers telephoned ahead that we were 
on our way. I was sure that no one got into the Kremlin who 
wasn't wanted there. The numbers on the doors grew lower; 
as we passed numbers 12, n, 10, I wondered whether Stalin 
would be behind No. i. However, I was taken into No. 2, where 
I waited for two hours. 

I go to every important portrait appointment with a convic- 
tion that my cameras are going to cease functioning a dread that 
never leaves me, even after years of experience, and this time I 
was certain that nothing would work when I was face to face 
with Stalin. During the wait, I polished my lenses, checked my 
synchronizers, powdered my nose, glanced in my mirror to make 
sure the little re*l bow was on at just the right angle. At last a 
Red Army officer, wearing an impressive collection of medals, 
came for me. 

I had just time to remind myself not to be nervous when I 



I PHOTOGRAPH STALIN 183 

was whirled through door No. i into a long, bare room. There 
was little furniture except a long table, covered with green felt, 
and a large globe of the world on a pedestal. I was conscious 
of Mr. Hopkins standing at my side, but it took me a moment 
to find Stalin. I had seen so many giant statues of him that I had 
come to think of him as a man of superhuman size. I looked 
instinctively toward the ceiling, then lowered my eyes and saw 
Stalin. He was standing very stiff and straight in the center of 
the rug. His face was gray, his figure flat-chested. He stood so 
still he might have been carved out of granite. 

There was nothing superhuman about his size. My own height 
is five feet five, and Stalin was shorter than I am. My first reac- 
tion was "What an insignificant-looking man!" Then, in the 
next minute, I decided there was nothing insignificant about 
Stalin. Many correspondents and others I had talked with won- 
dered whether Stalin made his own decisions or was merely a 
figurehead. One look at that granite face, and I was sure that 
Stalin made all the decisions. I was struck by his wide, Mongolian 
cheekbones which gave an illusion of size. I was surprised to 
see that he had pockmarks. He wore boots and a plain khaki 
tunic. I noted he was the only person I had seen in lie Kremlin 
wearing no medals. 

As I began working, I tried to draw Stalin into conversation 
through the Kremlin interpreter. I mentioned having photo- 
graphed his mother while she was still living, in Tiflis. At this 
disclosure, the Kremlin interpreter exclaimed with astonishment, 
"His very own mother! His real mother!" But Stalin spoke never 
a word. His rough, pitted face was as immobile as ice. 

I asked him to sit down, hoping that would make him more 
relaxed, and when he didn't, I repeated my request through the 
interpreter. Stalin showed no inclination to oblige me. I was 
desperate to find something to make that great stone face look 
human. Then a little thing happened to help me. 

As I sank down to my knees to get some low viewpoints, I 
spilled out a pocketful of peanut flashbulbs, which went bounc- 
ing all over the floor. The Kremlin interpreter and I went 
scrambling after them. I guess Stalin had never seen an American 
girl on her knees to him before. He thought it was funny, and 
started to laugh. The change was miraculous! It was as though 



184 I PHOTOGRAPH STALIN 

a second personality had come to the front genial and almost 
merry. The smile lasted just long enough for me to make two 
exposures, and then, as though a veil had been drawn over his 
features, again he turned to stone. I went away thinking this was 
the most determined, the most ruthless personality I had ever 
encountered in my life. 

It was almost half past nine when I left the Kremlin, and the 
Luftwaffe had been calling regularly at ten o'clock each night. 
I couldn't take a chance on developing my precious films at the 
hotel; to have an air-raid warden break into my bathroom and 
tear me away from a half-developed negative of Stalin was more 
than I could risk. I drove to the American Embassy where I 
would not be interrupted. The alarm sounded just as I drove 
through the gates. The Embassy was deserted. Everyone had 
gone off to shelters. The Ambassador and Mr. Hopkins were 
Stalin's guests for the air raid that night in the super-deep shelter 
far under the subway, reserved for the highest Soviet officials. 

The chauffeur helped me set up my laboratory in the servants' 
bathroom in the Embassy cellar. The negatives of Stalin were so 
irreplaceable should anything go wrong that I did not have the 
courage to plunge them in, sink or swim, a whole film pack at a 
rime. I began processing them one by one. 

It was a busy night outside, and I could hear the rhythmic 
booming of the guns as I worked. And when finally long de- 
scending shrieks began, I was glad the cellar window was sand- 
bagged. Wouldn't it be fantastic, I thought, if Uncle Joe got 
fogged by a fire bomb? After four hours, the raid ended. 

As the night wore on, I grew hungry. In the excitement of the 
appointment, I had entirely forgotten to have supper, and I 
couldn't remember whether I had eaten any lunch. It should be 
easy to get something to eat in your own Embassy, I thought, 
but the steward had gone off with all the pantry keys in his 
pocket. One rarely used icebox in the basement had been left un- 
locked, but it contained only a bowl of rice of doubtful date. 

At 5:00 A.M. it occurred to me that I should send Life some 
kind of description of my remarkable evening, since my editors 
would hardly be familiar with the inside of the Kremlin. I 
searched throughout the cellar for something to write on, and 
found a big, brown paper marketing bag. I was dazed with 

Josef Stalin, photographed in the Kremlin, August /, 1941. 



1 86 I PHOTOGRAPH STALIN 

sleepiness, but I managed to scribble a short account of my excit- 
ing appointment. I was so weary that the words must have been 
almost illegible, and yet somehow, the editors back in New York 
made sense out of it. 

Mr. Hopkins had promised to take the films back to Wash- 
ington in the plane with him. I found him upstairs in the Embassy 
having breakfast, where I turned over the precious package to 
him. In less than two days, the films were in Life's hands. 

It was incidents like this which made me feel my office was 
just around the corner. It was uncanny the way everything 
reached Life just as needed. And the editors tied the pictures 
into the news so well! I had no sooner made and dispatched a 
series on Russian churches than Roosevelt made a speech on the 
importance of religious freedom. With one thing after another, 
Life had a world exclusive that lasted for weeks and weeks. 
The breaks went all our way; there was such an abundance of 
material: women painting false windows on every flat rooftop 
as camouflage, the staff of the Bolshoi Theater using their im- 
mense curtains and all their stage scenery spread over the Red 
Square and the Kremlin walls to confuse German pilots, the first 
German prisoner to be captured, the first German plane shot 
down. 

The factories whose birth pangs I had witnessed ten years 
earlier were being evacuated wholesale to Siberia, where they 
would be as far out of reach of the enemy as possible. Endless 
lines of boxcars with heavy machinery and workers and their 
families rolled eastward into Asia. 

In accordance with the "scorched earth" policy, by which 
anything useful should be blown up in the path of the enemy, the 
Dnieper Dam was demolished. The Russians wept when this news 
was published. When finally, after much begging, we got per- 
mission to go to the front, we passed scores of "scorched earth" 
villages reduced to patches of ashes. 

At the front, which was then near Smolensk, I made the ac- 
quaintance of what Russian war lore knows as General Mud. 
We traveled to the front over rivers of maple icing turned to 
glue, along what were once known as roads. We drove through 
plains scattered with helmets of the dead, and battlefields that 
looked like the end of the world. 



I PHOTOGRAPH STALIN 



I8 7 




Skinny and I bought our Russian fur hats in Archangel -for the home- 
ward trip by convoy through the Arctic. 



When General Mud began giving way to General Winter, we 
returned to Moscow and prepared to come home. We both had 
lecture tours coming up, and we had to get back the fastest way 
possible. Even the most stimulating travel in foreign countries, I 
find, sharpens the desire to return to your native land, where, 
with an instinct deeper than reason, you feel you really belong. 
The fastest way home was not very fast. We went by slow 
convoy of twenty-two cargo ships-escorted by two destroyers 
and a cruiser, in case of submarine activity-from Archangel 
through the Arctic Ocean and the North Sea to Scotland. From 
there, we flew to Portugal. 

We found Lisbon packed with travelers forced to wait weeks 



1 88 I PHOTOGRAPH STALIN 

to get accommodations. -Worried, we entered the office of Pan 
American Airways. My husband inquired about the reservations 
for Mr. and Mrs. Erskine Caldwell. The clerk shuffled through 
a bundle of cards. Looking at me in a condescending way, he 
said, "There's only one reservation being held, and I think, Mrs. 
Caldwell, that your husband has the priority." 

I begged the clerk, "Please look once more. There must be a 
reservation. Please do something to fix it up." 

"No," he said, eying me coldly. "There's only one more place 
being saved, and that's held for a lady from Russia." 

I thought, "Heavens! Who's scooping me?" And I asked, 
"What's her name?" 

He said, "Her name is Margaret Bourke- White." And so I 
was able to come hoine, too. 

Erskine cabled our secretary from Lisbon: ARRANGE SUNDAY 

DINNER WITH BOTH STEAK AND FRIED CHICKEN, ALSO ALL KNOWN 
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES BOTH IN AND OUT OF SEASON. We flew 

to the Azores, on to Bermuda arid on across the Atlantic. We 
had completed our trip around the world, and arrived in time 
for Sunday dinner. 



189 



CHAPTER XVI 



THE LECTURE 
CIRCUIT 



ELATING that dinner was about all I had time 
to do before throwing some clothes in a bag and returning to the 
airport. The evening of that very day saw me embarked for St. 
Louis, where I was to give a lecture to the Junior League at ten 
the next morning. I hadn't counted on being booked as closely 
as this! I had given occasional lectures before but only after the 
most painstaking preparation, and had never been signed up for 
a full-fledged tour like -this one. After our globe-circling trip, 
I was so weary as to be uncontrollably irritable. On a night flight, 
I usually drop off to sleep the minute the plane leaves the ground, 
but this time I got angrier and more sorry for myself with each 
mile we flew. I could not discipline myself enough to plan my 
speech in my mind. Drab St. Louis, in the half-light of dawn, 
matched the drabness of my spirits. But there was one unexpected 
bright object in the picture. The hotel where I registered had 
given me a room and a luxurious bath, done in many shades of 
lavender tile with a sunken lavender bathtub. I ordered an 
immense breakfast including Texas pink grapefruit and placed 
it next to the tub where I could soak and eat simultaneously. 

My morale was rising now, and with it my conscience. It 
wasn't the fault of my audience, I told myself, that I had come 
home scarcely twenty-four hours before I was scheduled to give 
a speech. And I must not take out my ill temper on them. Then 
the extreme of self-pity gave way to the opposite extreme of 
woriying for fear the audience would not get their money's 



190 THE LECTURE CIRCUIT 

worth. A lecture is usually fifty minutes or an hour long, and I 
had barely enough material to keep me on the stage for twenty 
minutes. 

Then I was there and the audience was there and it had begun. 
The listeners never moved from their places, nor did I. Finally, 
something made me look at my watch. I had been talking for two 
hours and twenty minutes. 

From this time on, I was in full swing. With this bursting out 
I had discovered that lecturing was doing something very im- 
portant for me. It was helping me sort out my impressions in 
answer to that invisible response of an audience, which, unseen 
and unheard, exerts such power on the speaker. And although I 
never allowed myself to speak for two hours and twenty minutes 
again, after each of these long journeys to distant countries or to 
the war, I came back so crowded with impressions tjiat had to 
be shared that I would have thrown them out to a convenient 
taxi driver or the corner policeman if I had not had lectures 
coming up. 

The first lecture after a big trip told me what I wanted to 
know the relative importance of the events I had been through, 
the human beings who stood out as the most vivid or moving, 
the details I could draw on to make my points come alive. Once 
I made the discovery that my experiences would unfold of them- 
selves on the platform, I never allowed myself to prepare too 
specifically. I wanted to be surprised, too. 

Two things I planned in advance: the opening episode and the 
closing one. I divided the subject matter roughly into three or 
four blocks, and I was always careful to figure out my transi- 
tions in advance so that I would know where I was going. But 
beyond this, not a word either in my mind or on paper. I used 
to walk across the stage saying to myself, "Fm going to have fun. 
Fm going to have fun." And I found that if I did, my audience 
usually had fun, too. 

Shifting from the camera to the lecture platform after a big 
assignment was a happy arrangement for me. Most of the situa- 
tions I was sent out to cover were in the heart of the news, which 
meant I could come back with material that was always timely 
and dramatic. On a photographic assignment, I threw myself so 
intensely into the business of taking photographs that I could 



THE LECTURE CIRCUIT 19 1 

not have done it, year in and year out, without growing stale. 
Instead of taking a vacation in the usual sense of the word, which 
interested me very little, I liked throwing myself just as whole- 
heartedly into a field completely different from photography. 
Lecturing meant I was building on my experiences, but in an- 
other dimension. 

Of course, I am at the very core a photographer. It is my trade 
and my deep joy. Other media, such as lecturing and later, 
writing grew out of my picture assignments. The pictures came 
first, the necessity for words later. My earlier books were essen- 
tially picture books with captions and a limited amount of text. 
Eyes on Russia, published after the first Russian trip, had a very 
short text. A large portfolio of loose-leaf pictures which came 
out at about the same time had no text other than a brief intro- 
duction and captions. In my book Shooting the Russian War, 
published after our wartime trip, words and pictures began to be 
more evenly balanced. In two later war books, "Purple Heart 
Valley" and "Dear Fatherland, Rest Quietly," about Italy and 
Germany respectively, the writing became a more important 
part of the book. 

I thought my lectures might serve as a first draft for a book. 
Since they were entirely extemporaneous, I tried taking a steno- 
typist on tour with me to make a word-for-word transcription. 
But I was amazed to find that all life had evaporated from the 
typewritten page. I made the discovery that speaking is an en- 
tirely different medium from writing. Writing has a shape and a 
set of laws utterly different from speaking. 

One thing that did help me very much was recordings of radio 
interviews that I made after each big trip while the experience 
was still fresh. They preserved a certain flavor in the choice of 
words which was invaluable later when I was writing. 

Traveling the lecture circuit is governed by the strictest show- 
must-go-on tradition. Trains may fail to connect, planes be 
grounded; you push your way onward by bus, caboose or camel. 
Sometimes the adventures you intend to relate from the plat- 
form pale before the sheer difficulties of getting to the lecture 
on time. 

I remember one short journey between Evanston, Illinois, and 
Evansville, Indiana, when everything hinged on a tight connec- 



1 92 THE LECTURE CIRCUIT 

don in Chicago. I missed the last train from Chicago and was un- 
successful in chartering an airplane. I hurried to the Stevens 
Hotel, believing the world's largest hotel would be able to help 
out in any emergency. 

The bell captain rose to the occasion. He had a car and could 
take me if the night manager was willing. 

The night manager-who, with his carefully groomed goatee, 
looked like a character out of a detective story not only was un- 
willing; he was shocked. He looked up at the tall, handsome bell 
captain and down at me and said, "Young lady, do you usually 
travel around by yourself like this?" 

"Oh, yes. Yes, but we don't have much time." 

"You travel all alone?" 

"Yes, I've been around the world several times and at the war. 
But please, I have a lecture in Evansville at 9:30 tomorrow 
morning. I'll miss it if we don't start right away." 

I won, but almost lost my victory by asking for two blankets 
and a pillow to make up a bed on the back seat of the car. The 
little goatee twitched with suspicion, but the blankets and pillows 
were ordered. By the time we were ready to leave, the entire 
night staff of the Stevens had lined up along Michigan Avenue 
to wave us off. 

I can sleep on anything moving as long as it's moving in the 
right direction. I woke up once or twice and asked how we were 
doing. We had a good chance, the bell captain said. At 9: 15, we 
reached Evansville. I streaked through the hotel lobby with a 
fresh suit over my arm, and buttonholed the manager. "Can you 
give me a lot of help in the next ten minutes? I need my suit 
pressed and I need breakfast. Send a maid; she can hand me my 
scrambled eggs in the shower." 

I walked on stage only nine minutes late. When I told my lis- 
teners the saga of the journey, they agreed with me that it was 
easier to go from Siberia to the Sahara than from Evanston to 
Evansville. 

Sometimes there was unexpected adventure on the platform 
like the time in Sioux Falls when I was in the midst of describing 
an air raid and began slowly and mysteriously to sink through 
the floor before the horrified eyes of my audience. Investigation 
showed that the stage had been improvised from two separate 



THE LECTURE CIRCUIT 193 

elements pushed together and the patchwork disguised under a 
rug. I was able to assure my audience that the perils of the bomb- 
ings had nothing to match the excitement of Sioux Falls. 

I cared particularly about wearing smart clothes on the lecture 
platform. I loved having my clothes designed by an outstanding 
designer. The year the war ended, I went on a spree in Paris. 
After all, these were my working clothes, I told myself formal, 
informal, costumes in which I would arrive, costumes in which 
I would depart, hats for luncheon lectures, hats for travel. 

With a bulging suitcase of new clothes and several hatboxes, 
I started on a coast-to-coast lecture tour. I changed trains at 
Chicago, and my sister Ruth met me at the station for a little 
visit between trains. We had just long enough to see my baggage 
on board and to get a sandwich. Ruth and I said our goodbyes. I 
went to my compartment, where I made the shocking discovery 
that my big suitcase with all my lovely clothes had been stolen. 
I rushed to the platform of the moving train. Ruth, unfortu- 
nately, was out of sight. I shouted to anyone who would listen, 
"Get the police! My bag is stolen. Police! Police!" 

To my surprise and admiration, at the next signal stop the 
train paused briefly to take on a couple of police investigators 
who searched the long train without results. It did me no good 
to learn that clothes were "hot" and would go for a pittance. I 
was not at all cheered by the prospect of a Dior sold in a side- 
walk transaction. 

Worst of all, I was not even wearing one of the Parisian suits, 
but my oldest and most frayed tweed, which had already seen a 
long and useful service. At least the thief had the good taste to 
leave me the hot hats. 

From then on, during my entire swing through the United 
States, I gave every lecture in my tweed suit with one of the 
Parisian hats. I may not have" looked so glamorous as I had hoped, 
but my sad story was received with oceans of sympathy from the 
men as well as the women in the audience. Two days after I 
arrived home, the bag appeared at the end of the railroad line in 
San Francisco, as mysteriously as it had disappeared. It was in- 
tact, but by then my last lecture was given; the tour was over for 
another year. 

Almost every lecture tour took me through the Middle West. 



194 THE LECTURE CIRCUIT 

My sister Ruth lives in Chicago and my brother Roger is in 
Cleveknd. When I was in either city there would be a short lay- 
over or at least time for a little visit on the telephone. As young- 
sters, the three of us darted off in all directions with very little 
brother-and-sister relationship. No doubt we were influenced 
by my mother's belief in personal independence. The years have 
brought us together in a very happy way. 

My tall and handsome brother, Roger, is an engineer with an 
inventive turn of mind much like our father's. He has carved out 
a very fascinating career for himself with one of the plastics. His 
new material is reinforced with tiny fibers of glass and is lighter 
than aluminum and stronger than steel. At the same time, it is an 
excellent electrical insulator. He has named it Glastic. Some years 
ago, Roger rented the corner of a factory to experiment with 
his Glastic. Soon he was renting half the factory and now he is 
in his own factory. He has married a lovely girl nicknamed 
"Mike," although she is very un-Mikelike to me, and they have 
two handsome and brilliant sons. 

Roger is interested in everything. His hobbies range from the 
difficult art of raising pet hermit crabs to designing sailing kayaks 
and racing them on Lake Erie. 

My sister Ruth, in Chicago, has been with the American Bar 
Association for twenty-five years and is its administrative secre- 
tary. Earlier, while at the University of Michigan editing the 
Michigan La<w Review, Ruth had taken some courses in law. 
When she came to the home office of the American Bar Associa- 
tion in Chicago, she edited its official Annual Report for many 
years. 

Ruth is one of the best editors I know. She has a gift for mak- 
ing suggestions and corrections without interfering with what 
the writer had in mind. I have never sent a book to press without 
the manuscript's passing under Ruth's wise eyes, and her com- 
ments have not only insight but humor. 

Ruth has another gift which has delighted me from childhood. 
She is the family bard and wrote letters home from school in 
rhyme, which die could handle as easily as prose. Ruth is much 
better at this kind of thing than I, but on one occasion when I 
was in my last year of college, I wrote a verse that saved me my 
diploma. 



THE LECTURE CIRCUIT 1 95 

To graduate from Cornell, I needed one more credit in a for- 
eign language, in my case French. That was the year I was 
starting my photographic business on the campus, and I simply 
couldn't put my mind on French. Finals were just around the 
corner. I would have to do something spectacular. 

Knowing that my professor liked French verse forms, I de- 
cided to compose a poem in French. I soon discovered that 
French poetry has its own particular difficulties, even for those 
who speak French well. I did the next best thing: I composed a 
triolet in English. On the day of the final, I left my answer sheet 
completely blank except for these eight Ikies: 

When first I tried, I did not guess, 
French verse would be so hard to master; 
Of more than common stubbornness, 
When -first I tried, 1 did not guess. 
Did mute E bode such sore distress, 
Elision promise such disaster, 
When first I tried? I did not guess, 
French verse would be so hard to master. 

My French professor passed me with a D. The only trouble 
is that now that I have become a world traveler, it would be 
much more useful to me if I spoke French, for one so seldom 
has the opportunity to address others in triolets. 



196 



CHAPTER XVII 



THE FLYING 
FLITGUN 



L-JRSKINE had a favorite saying which he re- 
peated very often so often that I think he convinced himself 
of its truth. "The life of a writer is just ten years," he would say. 
I did not agree with him at all. To me, the life of a writer like 
that of the professional in any other creative field is just what 
he cares to make it. 

It was about ten years before the outbreak of World War II 
that Erskine's powerful writings threw the searchlight on a 
hitherto ignored segment of American life. His book Tobacco 
Road, made into a play, had brought home to millions the plight 
of sharecroppers and tenant farmers in the South. Whether from 
Erskine's belief in the limiting of creativity to a decade, or from 
some other cause, at the end of ten years a change did take place. 
It seemed to me that Erskine was writing new books of old 
stories a repetition of earlier Tobacco Road themes that he 
was barricading himself from new experiences. Though there 
was still much warmth between us, Erskine's frozen moods were 
just as unaccountable and difficult as in the beginning. 

It took the war actually to separate us. The attack on Pearl 
Harbor took place and our country was in the war. For me, 
there was no other choice than to offer my special skills wherever 
they might be useful. I wanted to go overseas. Erskine wanted 
to accept a Hollywood offer. He saw to it that I had a very 
profitable offer, too. He bought a house in a lovely part of 



THE FLYING FLITGUN 197 

Arizona as a present for me. I wouldn't accept the Hollywood 
offer; I couldn't accept the house, which I felt was another set 
of golden chains. 

I believe by this time both of us began to realize we were lead- 
ing two separate lives that no longer fitted together. We had 
had five good, productive years with occasional tempests, it's 
true, but with some real happiness. I was relieved when it was 
all over and glad we parted with a mutual affection and respect 
which still endures. 

Now I could put personal problems behind me and get back 
to work. Life worked out a wonderful arrangement with the 
Pentagon in which I would be accredited to the U.S. Air Forces. 
With my love for taking pictures from airplanes and of airplanes, 
it was perfect. Both the Air Force and Life would use my 
pictures. 

In the late spring of 1942, when I was accredited, the first 
uniform for a woman war correspondent was designed for me. I 
was amused, but also rather pleased, by the seriousness with 
which the officers in the Army War College approached the de- 
sign of the uniform. A Captain Quirk and several lieutenants 
brought out bolts of cloth to decide just what the well-dressed 
woman war correspondent should wear. They decided to follow 
the basic pattern of an officer's uniform, except that women 
would have skirts as well as slacks. The blouse and slacks would 
be what is called "green" in the Army, with "dress pinks" (a 
lovely gray) for special occasions. There was a great deal of 
to-do about buttons. Would we be allowed to wear officers' gold 
buttons with the eagle or plain buttons matching the uniform? 
Finally it was decided we would wear gold buttons, and on the 
shoulders, instead of the insignia of Army rank, we would wear 
war correspondents' insignia. Once these decisions were made, 
women war correspondents' uniforms were modeled after this 
first one. Abercrombie & Fitch entered the project with enthu- 
siasm and turned out the first uniform. 

War correspondents had what is known as assimilated rank, 
which entitled them to officers' mess and officers' pay except 
you had to be captured to collect the officers' pay. During the 
early part of the war, we were lieutenants and were swifdy 



THE FLYING FLITGUN 1 99 

raised to captains. Before the war ended, we had been promoted 
to lieutenant colonels. 

I flew to England, and my arrival coincided with that of our 
first thirteen heavy bombers, the B-iys. In England, I stayed at a 
secret American bomber base, and made occasional short trips 
to London. On one of these, I photographed Winston Churchill 
on his sixty-eighth birthday. His Minister of Information, Bren- 
dan Bracken, arranged for me to take the picture on Churchill's 
birthday, thinking the First Lord would be more relaxed. 
Churchill was a difficult subject: nervous and tired understand- 
ably so, because the British Navy was having a bad rime with 
enemy submarines. In addition to Churchill's impatience, I was 
having trouble coaxing a sticky shutter into action. So I was 
grateful that I got one good picture of the fine old man with a 
birthday carnation in his buttonhole, which Life used for a cover. 

Another portrait subject was Haile Selassie, "King of the 
Kings of Ethiopia, Lion of Judah, the Elect of God," who was 
in exile in London. After the portrait, his Imperial Majesty cour- 
teously helped me and my gear to the elevator, although he was 
so small he could almost have been tucked into one of my camera 
cases. 

I was always glad to get back to the air base, because my heart 
was there with the crews and the big lumbering airplanes and all 
the dramatic activity. On one occasion, royalty came to us at 
the airfield. King George VI, touring American air bases, saw 
me taking pictures and said, as I learned later, "Who is that 
woman with the remarkable hair?" To have a king admire my 
hair and an emperor carry my cameras was more than I had been 
accustomed to. 

A tribute of a different sort which I cherished was the request 
of a bomber crew to name their airplane. Already on the field 
were some famous names: Berlin Butchershop, Deutscher Clean- 
ser, whose battle records matched their tides. When I came up 
with the Flying Flitgun, the crew members accepted the name 
with heartwarming enthusiasm. They ran out to their bomber 
with pails of paint, and on the nose of the 6-17 they painted a 
bright yellow flit-gun, spraying down three exotic insects, with 
the faces of Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito. Next they painted 
"SAY WHEN" on the bomb-bay doors and "Peggy" on the No. 3 

Accredited as a war correspondent assigned to the Air Force. This first 
uniform set the pattern -for 'woman war correspondents. 



200 THE FLYING FLITGUN 

engine. This last I took as a great compliment. There are only 
four engines to a crew of twelve on a B-iy, and they were 
usually named for fiancees and wives. Now we were ready for 
the christening. We all agreed that the Fortress should be chris- 
tened with Coca-Cola as more typically American than cham- 
pagne. And then of course we had no champagne. 

Like everything else in the Army, the christening went 
through channels. Quartermaster was called upon to pass a ruling 
authorizing me to break the Coke bottle, for in the Army, while 
Coca-Cola was expendable, the bottles were nonexpendable. 
Group Armament issued a directive permitting me to crack the 
Coke over the front guns. Weather picked us a day, just bad 
enough so that the airmen would not have to go on a mission, 
and just fair enough so that the christening party would not be 
rained out. Group Transportation agreed to move the piano and 
all other musical instruments available to the central runway. De- 
fense prepared a dispersal pattern for evacuating the field in four 
directions in case of an air raid. Intelligence wrote a christening 
speech, and the Commanding Officer of the pyth Bomb Group, 
Col. J. Hampton Atkinson, agreed to read it. The C.O., a serious, 
almost taciturn officer from Texas, delighted us all by reading the 
speech with expression and dramatic gestures. When the final, 
unexpectedly flattering lines were read "May the Flying Flitgun 
bring to the enemy the devastation its godmother has brought to 
the 97th" I mounted a high ladder to the nose of the bomber 
and swung the Coke over the right front machine gun. To my 
relief, the bottle broke as clean as though it had been cut with 
a blowtorch. 

Next morning, the heavy weather lifted. I went out very 
early to the Flitgun and at the request of the boys signed a bomb 
which they would drop on an airframe factory, their target deep 
in Germany. I wasn't entirely happy about autographing the 
bomb, but I knew the crew believed it would bring good luck. 
With the hazardous mission ahead, I would not subtract one 
iota from the morale of the crew. In stately procession, like great 
lumbering elephants spaced wide apart, the B-iys took off down 
the runway. Now I was like a wife or fiancee: of all the Flying 
Fortresses, the Flying Flitgun must come home. 

By late morning, the Fortresses were straggling in. I had been 




The christening of the "Flying Flitgun" The officer is Colonel 
(later General) Atkinson. 



around airmen long enough to know one should not talk too 
much if things had gone badly. This could be ascertained with- 
out a word when the men climbed out of their planes sullen and 
silent. But if things had been good . . . well, with the Flying 
Flitgiin they had. I could hear the crew laughing and kidding 
from far down the field as I ran to the ship. The men were ter- 
ribly excited. They had shot down their first enemy fighter, "and 
only two minutes after we delivered your bomb to that German 



202 THE FLYING FLITGUN 

factory," Captain Hofman told me. The formation of Fortresses 
was attacked by a a skyful of Focke-Wulf 1905." The Captain 
described it to me. "The air sure was crowded. It was like a 
convention over the target lots of people." An F-W rolled up 
for a belly attack on the Flitgun, so close the ball-turret gunner, 
Sergeant Froelig, could see the white borders of the swastika. 

"There he was, smack in the gunsight." Even the silent Ser- 
geant had become voluble. "I just pulled the trigger and pep- 
pered him till he reeled off and went down, tail over wing." 

The Sergeant was too busy defending his quadrant to even 
mention over the interphone that he had bagged a Jerry. But 
the other crew members told me there was one startling unbe- 
lievable moment just two minutes from the target on the home- 
ward stretch at a time when communications are kept reli- 
giously clear when they heard a voice, tuneful, wandering, and 
very strange. It was Sergeant Froelig on the interphone, singing. 

During all this work with the U.S. Air Forces overseas, I was 
given extraordinary assistance. My accreditation was a unique 
one, as war photographer directly assigned to the Air Force, with 
the Pentagon as well as Life using my pictures. I was allowed to 
do everything I required to build up my picture story: photo- 
graph the early dawn briefings, go on practice flights, whatever 
I needed except the one thing that really counted. I was not al- 
lowed to go on an actual combat mission. 

"To be a woman in a man's world," as people often phrase it, 
is usually I have found a distinct advantage. There are a few 
exceptions, and my present difficulty was a classic example. In 
a combat situation, men tend to overprotect, and no overpro- 
tected photographer, male or female, can get pictures by remote 
control. 

In the early weeks of my work with the heavy bombers, no 
one from the press was allowed to go on missions. Then the ban 
was lifted, as it obviously had to be. There was not a whisper 
of a double standard in the directive, but as though written in 
invisible ink, it was there for all Air Force officers to read. Male 
correspondents who applied got permission. My requests got me 
nowhere. Yet I was fully qualified to cover a mission perhaps 
more than they not in the sense of woman against man, but be- 
cause the Air Force was my explicit assignment, my special job 



THE FLYING FLITGUN 203 

and trust. I had to go on an actual combat mission. This was the 
heart and core of it all. On the first day the ban was lifted, two 
newspapermen flew the mission. They went in two different air- 
planes to the same target. Only one came back. This did not 
help my chances any. 

There comes a rime in any such impasse when one should stop 
begging for a while and give the problem a rest. I recognized this 
as the most tactful course and followed it. But the pain of leav- 
ing pictures undone which my magazine needed went very deep. 

Then something loomed so spectacular, so tantalizing, that it 
overshadowed even the importance of going on a mission. I 
dropped my request and made another one. 

The war was soon to open on another front with an invasion 
of the North African coast. This plan was one of the best-kept 
secrets of the entire war. On the American side of the Atlantic, 
few people knew; even my home office did not know. I was as- 
suming a great responsibility to jump to another continent with- 
out consulting my editors in New York. But I had not an instant 
of doubt. If the Air Force would have me, I wanted to come 
right along. 

For the invasion, I yearned and prayed that being a woman 
would make no difference. Then one evening, Gen. Jimmy Doo- 
little, recently appointed Commanding General of the Eighth 
Air Force, turned up in the officers' lounge. 

I had met him through Eddie Rickenbacker on the Indianapo- 
lis Speedway some years earlier. His wife Jo had embroidered my 
name on her famous tablecloth on which she worked the signa- 
tures of scores and scores of Doolittle friends. I knew Jimmy 
well enough to be sure my sex would not prejudice him against 
my request to go along on the coming invasion. He gave me per- 
mission to go, without any red tape. 

I assumed I would fly to the African front with the heavy 
bomb group going in the Flitgun would be perfect. But no 
the high brass were determined on one point. No one could tell 
what kind of resistance we would meet. I should be sent by sea 
in convoy the nice safe way. 

The upshot of that was that those who flew and this included 
most of the brass stepped out on the African continent with 
their feet dry. I had to row part of the way. 



204 



CHAPTER XVIII 

WAR 
AT SEA 



R CONVOY was large, with an airplane car- 
rier, several troopships, and such a body of corvettes and de- 
stroyers that we sailed forth like some great feudal family of 
ships with bodyguards and retainers dispersed to the far horizon. 

I was on the flagship, a vessel built for peacetime pleasure 
cruises, which now was performing a wartime miracle by stuffing 
six thousand British and American troops belowdecks and in the 
hold. In addition she somehow packed away four hundred nurses, 
along with the first five Wacs to be sent overseas into a war 
zone, and two women from SHAEF both very pretty ones 
the statuesque Elspeth Duncan from the clerical staff, and Kay 
Summersby, General Eisenhower's sparkling Irish driver. 

I was billeted with some Scottish nursing "sisters," as they 
called themselves, and we were lucky because we had a cabin, 
however crowded. When I came in with my gear, the sisters 
were unpacking, and they looked up wistfully at the slacks I 
wore with my war correspondent's uniform. When they found 
I could wear them at my own discretion (which was most of the 
time), they were openly envious. They too had slacks with their 
uniforms, but "Old Battle-Ax," their matron, had forbidden 
them to wear them for anything but a torpedoing. As we 
chatted, one very tiny and compact sister, with a determined air 
about her, crawled into her bunk hours before we even left the 
dock, tucked her Bible under the covers with her and prepared 
to be seasick. She need not have prepared. It was all being pre- 
pared for her, 



WAR AT SEA 2OJ 

Even our troopship's captain, who had spent all his life at sea, 
had never met such a continuously savage storm. He had guided 
ships through bursts of great violence, but this tempest raged re- 
lentlessly for the full five days of our zigzag course to Gibraltar. 
The waves piled up in rising cliffs, sixty feet high, with spume 
blowing off like snow in a blizzard. Down in the trough you felt 
you would never see the sky again. Up on the peaks, you caught a 
second's flash of other ships bobbing like celluloid toys. The air- 
craft carrier rolled so crazily it seemed a miracle she did not over- 
turn completely. On the wildly pitching little corvettes, the men, 
we learned, were lashed to the decks. 

On our own ship with its reminders of past elegance, a colonel 
and the nurse he was dating were hit in the head by an over- 
stuffed sofa they had just vacated. The grand piano began charg- 
ing about like a savage beast eluding a group of infantrymen who 
tried to ambush it, until it crashed against the wall with its legs 
broken. The grand staircase was a mantrap breaking the bones 
of its victims arms and legs and in one case a skull. 

Through all the wild weather, and no matter how seasick the 
nurses were, lifeboat drills were called two and three times a 
day. Grabbing guidelines strung along the decks, we inarched 
in as strict formation as we could manage, to our boat stations. 
For fourteen minutes, while the ship dipped and churned and 
green-complexioned nurses and soldiers hung on the ropes, we 
stood or rather clung in rigidly enforced and total silence until 
dismissed. Then back to our cabins, drenched with spray from 
the sea and rain from the sky, and with the sick nurses diving 
into their bunks, when another call would pull everybody out 
again. I thought this was overdoing discipline a bit, that it was 
cruel to the sick nurses, some armchair admiral's idea. I was soon 
to change my mind. On this discipline, thousands of lives would 
depend. 

Mess was served in the grand saloon twice during the twenty- 
four hours to those who had confidence they could keep their 
meals down. (For belonging to this small proud minority, I 
thanked the ghosts of my Irish ancestors, deep-sea sailors for 
many generations back, who I liked to believe had passed on 
their general durability and wanderlust to me.) Dining in die 
grand saloon exposed us to the unpredictable hazards of flying 



206 WAR AT SEA 



crockery. Plates soared from one table to the next, scattering 
soup and food generously as they went. The frequent sound of 
china, falling in great crashes like backstage comedy effects, en- 
livened the trip. I don't know how many dishes it takes to feed 
six thousand troops, but there cannot have been many left when 
we reached Gibraltar. 

"The storm is lucky," everybody who could still walk and 
talk was saying. "We don't have to worry about getting tor- 
pedoed in a sea like this. No sub could hold its aim long enough 
to hit us." They were closer to the truth than they knew. 

Once through the slender neck of Gibraltar Straits into the 
calm Mediterranean, almost immediately there were hints of un- 
derwater mysteries. Late in the afternoon our corvettes and de- 
stroyers scampered off to the horizon, dropped a smoke bomb to 
mark the spot and circled the gray smoke plume like a school 
of sharks. But what the spot was, and what came of it, we were 
not told; the Admiralty volunteers little in the way of informa- 
tion, even if you're a participant. 

I went to my cabin to check one last time on my musette bag. 
We had been instructed to keep one always ready, packed with 
soap, extra socks, concentrated chocolate. I threw out the socks 
and most of the chocolate and put in one small camera and some 
rolls of film. This meant leaving five other cameras behind. If I 
made the request, I would be granted permission to carry one 
more piece of equipment, but I did not ask. Knowing how care- 
fully every foot of space was allocated, I was afraid if anything 
really did happen, a camera case might displace a person. 

There was one lens I hated to leave behind, even though it 
would not fit the small Rolleiflex I was carrying. It was a big old 
telephoto which somehow was so perfect for portraits that I 
had used it over the years, fitting it to successive cameras as the 
old ones wore out. It had photographed almost every famous 
person in the world: Churchill, King George of England, Haile 
Selassie, Madame and the Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, Stalin, 
the Pope, Franklin D. Roosevelt; I threw the soap out and 
crammed the lens in. 

One last preparation. I visited the C.O. of Troops, along with 
two other newsmen on board, and we secured permission in 
case of enemy action to break out of line, go up to a spot just 



WAR AT SEA 207 

under the Captain's bridge and cover the attack from there. Now 
there was nothing left to do but go to the farewell party. Next 
day we were due to land in Africa. 

At the well-blacked-out party, being a member of the fourth 
estate, I was given a niblet of inside information. For three days 
we had been followed. And by more than one submarine. How 
many, our officers could not determine "but subs are supposed 
to travel in packs of eight or twelve," my informant told me. 
That afternoon we had scored a "probable." **So if we got it," 
the officer said with a laugh, "we have only seven or eleven still 
to contend with." We said good night all around, and went to 
our bunks. 

The torpedo came almost softly, penetrating the ship with a 
dull blunt thud. Yet I am sure everyone aboard said inwardly as 
I did, "This is it." We knew our ship was gravely wounded. We 
believed she would die. She had been a person to us a friend who 
had protected us as long as she could. And now we were pre- 
paring to desert her as quickly as possible. 

The sudden sharp list catapulted me out of my bunk into die 
shambles of a stateroom. One of the sisters found her flash and 
switched it on, and by its wavering beam we raced into our 
clothes. (We had been ordered to sleep fully dressed, but few 
people did.) I remember having to make trivial choices. Should 
it be the olive-drab work slacks or the dress pinks? Should I wear 
the trench coat, which was waterproof, or my beautifully tail- 
ored officer's greatcoat, which was warmer? I chose the dress 
coat and the work pants. All this seemed to take a year, but it 
must have been only a few seconds. The sisters too were leaping 
into their slacks and even in our haste the slacks impressed me. 
The girls were dressing correctly for the torpedoing! Wishing 
them luck, I threw my musette bag with its camera over my 
shoulder and dashed out. 

Outside the cabin I met a swelling stream of troops, marching 
as we had all been taught to march, flowing in silence and with- 
out panic through stairwells and passages to their stations. I 
broke through this human river as the Commander of Troops 
had directed me to do and worked my way upward, hoping 
there would be a trace of dawn so I could take pictures. I 
emerged on the top deck under a midnight sly with a moon so 



208 WAR AT SEA 

brilliant it gave me the false illusion of photographic light. The 
ship tilted away from under my feet like a giant silver tea tray 
incongruously set with big black mushrooms, which I realized 
were guns on their pedestals. I could not help planning the pic- 
tures I would have taken . . . but where was everybody? A 
solitary crewman appeared, ran toward me and told me I should 
go to my boat station. When I explained I was the Life photog- 
rapher and had permission to be there, he ran off without a word. 
At a distance I could hear a blurred voice through a megaphone 
or loudspeaker. I couldn't quite get the meaning then I caught 
it. It was the order to abandon ship. 

Later, when I had time to think about it, I marveled at the 
change in me the instant thoughts of work gave way to thoughts 
of survival. With the possibility of work, nothing seemed too 
dreadful to face, but now lifeboat station No. 12 suddenly be- 
came the most desirable place in the world to be. My journey 
down the long sloping deck seemed interminable. I kept barking 
my shins on metal debris and running into piles of wreckage 
which I had to scramble over. I dreaded to find my lifeboat al- 
ready launched. And but for a special difficulty, it would have 
been. Our lifeboat had been flooded with the torpedo splash, and 
there was some doubt whether it would stay afloat. As crew 
members discussed this problem in low anxious tones, my boat- 
mates held strict formation in total silence exactly as we had all 
been taught in boat drills. I slid gratefully into my place and 
stood in silence with my companions while the moon beat down 
on us all. 

Just in front of me were two of the sisters, trembling from 
head to foot with an uncontrollable intensity I had never seen 
before. "That's real trembling," I said to myself, and noted that 
only the bodies were uncontrolled. Naturally they were afraid 
at such a time, but they rose above it and conducted themselves 
with complete self-discipline. 

Then I began to notice myself. "Why is my mouth so dry?" 
I wondered. "Never in my life have I felt such dryness. This 
must be fear." It seemed as though I had a second self that stood 
outside me and monitored everything I did. It spoke to me: 
"This is one time in your life when you don't have the faintest 
idea what is going to happen to you. You don't have even a 



WAR AT SEA 209 

theory. There's a fifty per cent chance you will live. There's 
a fifty per cent chance you might die." 

In a way I find hard to put into words, the few minutes while 
we waited to step from the doomed ship into the flooded life- 
boat have become for me almost a religious experience. I look 
back on it as a dividing time in my life not in the sense of "If 
I live, it will be on borrowed time"; this was something that 
went much deeper with me and forged closer links with my 
fellow man. 

We stood all six thousand of us at a crossroads, not just 
between personal death or life but between paralyzing self- 
concern and that thought for others that transcends self. We 
were in a situation too vast for any one person to control, a 
catastrophe where people will show the qualities they have. 

For me it was an inspiring discovery that so many people- 
perhaps all normal healthy people have a hidden well of cour- 
age, unknown sometimes even to themselves. But there it is, 
waiting to be drawn upon in rime of need. This was a night 
when people drew upon their secret strengths and rose to meet 
whatever they had to meet. Sharing in this experience with them 
had a profound effect on my understanding and feeling toward 
other human beings, and the memory of it will never leave me. 

If there was any hysteria on our ship, I never heard about it. 
Instead I heard incidents like the one of the Wacs. Their life- 
boat was overloaded. Two people would have to stay behind. 
Immediately two Wacs stepped out of line saying cheerfully, 
"Oh, of course, we can't all go." Their lifeboat was lowered 
away without them. 

In our own boat line, we faced a similar overweight problem 
with the extra water dished in by the torpedo. I could catch only 
snatches of whispered consultations behind me. Then I picked 
out the low firm voice of Elspeth Duncan, the tall handsome 
clerk from Eisenhower's staff. "The nurses are more important 
than we are," she was saying, and she stepped aside and firmly 
shoved one of the nurses into her place. 

Happily it was decided we should all embark and risk the 
weight. Under the calm direction of Old Battle- Ax, the sisters' 
C.O., we climbed over the rail and into lifeboat No. 12. Even 
though we knew the torpedo splash was there, it was a shock to 



210 WAR AT SEA 

find ourselves sitting in water up to our waists. As we started 
slowly downward, I hugged my musette bag to my chest hoping 
to keep my camera dry a task made more complicated by water 
falling in puzzling big splashes on top of our heads, as though 
someone were emptying buckets on us. This mystified me till I 
realized it came from our next-door neighbor, lifeboat No. 11, 
which crewmen above us were attempting to drain and launch. 

During our quivering descent, I could think of nothing but 
the magnificent pictures unfolding before me which I longed to 
take and could not. I suppose for all photographers, their greatest 
pictures are their untaken ones, and I am no exception. For me 
the indelible untaken photograph is the picture of our sinking 
ship viewed from our dangling lifeboat the entire panorama 
standing out against a backdrop of cumulus clouds so deceptively 
luminous that I found myself saying, "If it were day, this would 
be a perfect K-z sky." As I write this, fifteen years after it 
happened, I am painfully aware that our marvelously speeded-up 
film emulsions and stepped-up darkroom techniques would have 
made this subject not easy, but just possible. 

The scene will always haunt me. The towering hull curved 
away in a powerful perspective, dwarfing to pygmy size the 
hundreds of men scrambling to escape down rope nets flung over 
the side. It seemed to me that every visible surface was encrusted 
with human beings, clinging or climbing. The water itself was 
alive with people swimming, people in lifeboats, people hanging 
to floating debris. 

As we dropped closer to the sea, I could see dozens of nurses 
hanging on for dear life to the bottom of the great nets. One 
poor girl, on the lowest rung of a rope ladder, was dizzily twirled 
about and dragged underwater with each wave. In between 
waves, she must have had only one moment to breathe before 
getting pulled under again. 

Then suddenly we were on the surface of the sea ourselves 
with a dozen problems of our own to cope with. Our rudder 
broke, and it seemed we would never pry ourselves away from 
the suction of the big ship, and when we finally poled our boat 
free, we were drawn into an entangling dance with lifeboat 
No, 14. 

Then down came the ill-starred lifeboat No. 11, with her 



WAR AT SEA 2 1 1 

hull plugs improperly repkced after draining. The instant she 
touched the water she capsized, tossing her load of nurses into 
the sea, some to drown. All lifeboats within reach began rescuing 
nurses. 

OS in the distance we heard a tragic cry, over and over: "I'm 
all alone. I'm all alone." We tried to steer our rudderless craft 
toward the voice, but could make no headway. Then the des- 
perate shout grew fainter until it was swallowed up in silence. 

Our boat was so unpredictable without its rudder that I was 
glad when we drifted close enough to a raft for me to catch a 
corner while the others pulled the sister on it in with us. The 
girl's face was grotesquely masked with oil. The nurses wiped 
it off, and it wanned my heart to see this was my cabinmate 
she of the Bible. She had a broken leg, and the nurses behind 
me held her tight to keep her from bouncing back and forth with 
each swell. 

And suddenly here it was again, the beautiful courage, that 
special good humor which has its own large part in courage. A 
soldier swimming to a raft raised his hand with thumb jerked up 
and called, "Hi, taxi!" An American nurse swimming in her life 
jacket called out, "Which way to North Africa?" Another nurse 
shouted back, "Take the third wave to the left." 

From lifeboats and rafts came snatches of singing: "You are 
my Sunshine, my only Sunshine." Sunshine, I thought, that's all 
I need. We were bailing out our boat with our helmets now, and 
the nurses and I were taking turns at the oars. The rhythm of 
singing made our rowing and bailing easier. By now everyone 
within earshot joined in, and soon from every raft and lifeboat 
and floating plank came the strains of "Sunshine." 

We seemed to be drifting in a vast waterborne theater in the 
midst of an enormous floating audience. As though from a dark- 
ened stage, a voice from the deck of a destroyer bellowed out 
directions to us through a megaphone. The destroyer had stayed 
behind to help us. We must keep back. They were going to 
drop depth charges and would warn us before each charge. 
Depth charges! That meant they thought the submarine might 
still be lurking about. An eerie thought, that our enemy the sub 
might be nuzzling around in the black depths right under our 
lifeboat! With each charge the sea shook itself violently and 



212 WAR AT SEA 



roared, but if there were results, we were given no news of them. 

Through the voyage I had harbored the comfortable and 
completely groundless theory that if we met with any mishap we 
would have plenty of company. The other members of the 
convoy would, I imagined, gather about us like a worried and 
loving family. I now realized the reverse had taken place. And 
sensibly! When we were struck, the entire convoy, save for the 
destroyer, had speeded on so as not to risk providing the enemy 
with additional targets. And now, we learned from the voice 
through the megaphone, we were going to lose even the de- 
stroyer. More, we were going to lose our mother ship, who 
despite her wounds seemed by her very presence still to protect 
us. The megaphone was giving us some parting message which 
we could not completely hear . . . something about towing 
away the ship . . . something about survivors. To all of us 
the ship had been human more than human. When her sagging 
silhouette was swallowed up in distance, our loneliness was in- 
tense. The moon set. The floating theater was a theater no 
longer. The show was over. 

With our useless rudder, we drifted away from the com- 
munity of lifeboats. I must confess I never expected to see any- 
one I knew again. I wondered what would happen if we were 
washed up on some enemy coast. Irrationally I wondered how 
irritated my lecture manager might be if I did not turn up on 
schedule, and my editors at Life how would they feel? I had 
made this move on my own and then failed to show up with 
pictures. While not shedding a tear about my five cameras which 
would go down with the ship that was part of the hazard of 
war I grieved disproportionately about the loss of my cosmetics 
case. It was fitted with exquisitely carved ivory jars made to 
measure for me when I was in Hong Kong. It had flown around 
the world and been through battle. Just before I left England, a 
leather craftsman had covered it beautifully in ostrich. The skin 
was such a fine one, he had been saving it for his daughter's wed- 
ding. But now with the war on, who could tell whether there 
would be a young man for his daughter, or any wedding? As 
we washed aimlessly about, drifting, I reflected that waiting for 
the wedding would have been the lesser hazard. I recalled the 
one tin of concentrated food I had kept when I tossed out the 



WAR AT SEA 2 I 3 

rest to make room for films. The can was marked; TO BE CON- 
SUMED ONLY WHEN RATIONS OF ANY KIND ARE NOT PROCURABLE. 

I vowed to myself not to open it rill the eleventh day. Why I 
picked eleven I don't know. (I use it now at home as a paper- 
weight.) 

The first dull hint of dawn over a gray empty sea found us at 
our lowest ebb. Then without warning, as so many times during 
this night that was like a lifetime, our sober mood was instantly 
transformed. Here the catalytic agent was a little Welshman, 
Alfred Yorke, quartermaster on the ship and skipper of our 
lifeboat. 

"Here I am," said Skipper Yorke, "with my false teeth back 
on board and no breakfast to put them into." 

A nurse shot back, "I bet they're chattering all by themselves 
up there now." 

Chauffeur Kay Summersby, who could be pretty even through 
a torpedoing, announced her breakfast order: she'd take her eggs 
sunny side up and no yolks broken. 

With sunrise I took pictures of our boatload of waifs. By mid- 
afternoon I had the keen pleasure of photographing my fellow 
survivors as they waved joyfully at an English flying boat that 
spotted us. Help came quickly in the form of a destroyer that 
picked us up before nightfall. It was bulging at the seams with 
hundreds of soldiers lifted directly from the big ship in a brilliant 
rescue maneuver with four destroyers. Some of the troops had 
been trapped belowdecks (we never knew how many) when the 
torpedo hit. But many had been saved, and the discipline and 
absence of panic had a great deal to do with the success of the 
rescue maneuvers. 

I was given a shining account of the two Wacs who stayed 
behind. They laughed, sang, told jokes, ventured belowdecks for 
materials and made sandwiches for the men. They brought out 
their vanity cases on deck, flapped powder puffs, applied lip- 
stick, until the troops were saying, "If a girl can use a lipstick in 
a spot like this, you feel there isn't much for a boatload of fel- 
lows to be afraid of." 

With special satisfaction I learned of the gallant conduct of 
one more feminine survivor. With that aloof dignity character- 
istic of her kind, the ship's cat hung back on an abutment over 

[OVERLEAF] En route to the North African campaign. Ufeboat crowded 
with survivors who joy-frilly wave to the British search plane which 



2l6 WAR AT SEA 

the burning deck until the last living soldier had taken the steep 
jump down to the deck of the last rescuing destroyer. Then she 
leaped lightly down to the destroyer and safety. 

That night in crowded Algiers all female survivors except the 
feline one were put up in the only place available the maternity 
hospital. I felt sorry for the nurses. They had just fallen into 
the first real sleep they had enjoyed for many days, when they 
were awakened by the Germans who flew over and bombed 
the harbor inaccurately with most of their missiles falling un- 
comfortably close to the maternity hospital. 

Before dawn an officer called for me and took me down to the 
water's edge. There was the slenderest hope that the burning 
ship might be towed to shore and something salvaged. I was to 
be ready, if the flames had not spread too far, to guide a group 
of salvagers with all possible speed in an effort to save my cam- 
eras. It was a good plan, but time ran out too fast. 

Fifteen miles off shore the ship met her end. A famous salvage 
officer, Captaiii Ellsworth, was in charge of operations. With 
fifty men he worked until the intense heat made work impossible. 
The decks of the ship began flowing like a steel furnace. The 
smokestack split in two and both its parts sailed up into the air. 
Then the great heat set off the guns, charge after charge. The 
depth charges began exploding automatically, raining the decks 
with shrapnel, until the rescuers had to escape to their salvage 
vessel and pull away to save their lives. 

But our ship was not through fighting yet. She began sending 
off her own distress signals, her own parachute flares, as though 
she knew what was happening to her and was crying for help. 
Her portholes began melting and flowing down, great tears of 
molten glass. When the portholes melted, the sea rushed in, and 
our ship as though ready to accept her destiny at last turned 
ovfer on her side and sank quietly to the bottom of the sea. 



2I 7 



CHAPTER XIX 



IN THE 
GARDEN 
OF ALLAH 



RESCUE from the maternity hospital was 
carried out promptly by my Air Force friends, who took 
me for a drying out to an exotic villa overlooking the Mediter- 
ranean and with a brook running right through the house. This 
architectural triumph in tiled gingerbread had been requisitioned 
by the Allied Air Command for such topflight air officers as the 
American General Spaatz, the British Air Chief Marshal Tedder 
and other transient brass. 

Right inside the front door I collided with the air officer I 
wanted most to see: Gen. Jimmy Doolitde. His first words were 
"Maggie, do you still want to go on a bombing mission?" 

"Oh, you know I do," I gasped. "I had given up asking, be- 
cause I didn't want to make a nuisance of myself all the time." 

"Well, you've been torpedoed. You might as well go through 
everything," said General Jimmy. 

In the next minute he was on a field telephone calling through 
to the pyth Bomb Group my bomb groupand conveying the 
glad news that I had permission to fly a combat mission at the 
discretion of the C.O. This particular C.O. was the same Col. 
Joseph Hampton Atkinson from Texas who had presided so 
eloquently over the christening of the Flying Flitgun. I had 
previously discussed with him, while we were still in England, 
the question of the mission and its importance to my story. 



2 1 8 IN THE GARDEN OF ALLAH 

I knew he was in favor of allowing me to do my photographic 
duty as I saw it. 

The important business of the combat mission settled, General 
Jimmy turned to me and looked me up and down. I am sure I 
resembled a drowned rat as closely as a female war correspondent 
can. 

"Maggie, what do you need?" 

"It would be lovely to be able to sleep in something pajamas 
or anything." 

"Now I know why I've kept my sister-in-law's pajamas all 
these years," said the General. "She gave them to me for Christ- 
mas, but I always sleep raw myself. If you want them, they're 
yours." 

They were dark green silk, huge for me but very beautiful. 
I still have them. 

"What else?" 

"It would be nice to change into another shirt," I decided. 

Again General Jimmy had just the right article a shirt with 
a history. It dated from the time he led his daring raid over 
Tokyo, earlier in the war. On the homeward stretch after meet- 
ing many difficulties, he ran out of fuel, and he and his men had 
to parachute into the heart of China. He beat his way to the 
outside world and arrived in Cairo in as meager a wardrobe as 
the one in which I survived torpedoing. He was to attend a 
formal dinner that evening, and the clothes problem had to be 
solved in a hurry. 

A local tailor was found who claimed he could put together a 
uniform in a single day. Precisely at sundown the tailor fulfilled 
his agreement by sewing the last stitch in fact, more than ful- 
filled it, as General Jimmy discovered when he tried to get 
dressed. The uniform was long-sized in all its dimensions. He had 
to pin up the pants legs before he could walk and shorten the 
sleeves to find his hands. General Jimmy is a short man with a 
powerful torso, but even with his barrel of a chest, he had to put 
in tucks before he could go to the banquet. He sat down gin- 
gerly to the feast as full of unseen but by no means unf elt pins 
as though he were wearing a porcupine suit wrong side in. 

The oversized shirt was fine for me with lots of splendid 
material. With a small escort of airmen who knew where things 



IN THE GARDEN OF ALLAH 2 19 

were in the town, I went to an Arab tailor for a fitting. Like 
most tradesmen in Algiers, he spoke French. As the French word 
for shirt is "chemise," my shirt attained a certain degree of 
renown as "the General's chemise." 

While the alterations on my shirt were being completed, we 
went off to do some window-shopping, quickly discovering 
there were no windows left intact and few shops with so much 
as a yard of cloth to buy. Up near the notorious C^sbah a 
jeweler beckoned us into his shop, and brought out three small 
cases carefully wrapped in earth-stained linen. In these were his 
fine pieces, he explained. When the enemy was in occupation, 
he put only his cheap-jack stuff on display and buried everything 
of value. 

He had lovely old pieces but I had eyes only for one, a brace- 
let, very old two hundred years or more set with four large 
amethysts, deep purple and flawless, clasped in delicate tracery 
woven in three colors of gold. 

I have never cared for expensive jewelry, although I love to 
collect unusual pieces on my travels for their own charm or as 
reminders of the pkces I have been. But whoever made this 
bracelet two centuries ago made it for me. It was an extravagance 
for me but so easy to justify! Certainly a girl who's lost all her 
clothes in a torpedoing deserves at least a bracelet. 

And so, attired in la chemise du general, the amethyst bracelet, 
and my very baggy stained pants, I was flown in a cargo plane 
to "a secret air base in an oasis in the Sahara Desert." It sounded 
glamorous, and to me it was. 

The oasis was called romantically "the Garden of Allah" and 
was windswept with stinging sands, hot and chilly by turns^ its 
few buildings in ruins. But to me, with my precious permission 
I had gone through literal fire and water to obtain, and with 
my wonderful story ahead to work on, the Garden of Allah 
had that touch of enchantment the name implies. I had flown 
there not in a bucket seat of a freight plane but on a strip of 
that magic carpet the location demanded An aura of improbabil- 
ity hung over it all. 

It was a Garden of Allah where Junkers planes dared fly over 
so low they barely cleared the date palms. I was walking with 
the C.O. toward the mess hall when I first saw this. It was star- 



220 IN THE GARDEN OF ALLAH 

tling to look up through the dusk and see those big painted 
swastikas right over our heads. There wasn't time to be fright- 
ened, and their stick of bombs missed us, but Colonel Atkinson 
was choking with frustration. This was our most trying period 
of the air war, when enemy planes came uncomfortably close to 
outnumbering ours, and the C.O. was aching to "get into those 
pestholes where they're based" (which he later did) "and clean 
them all out. In war we must keep on the offensive," he told me. 

This was the Garden of Allah where the finest dates in the 
world grew, exported in peacetime and now blessedly plentiful 
for us. Under the soaring date palms our men received their 
Christmas packages, a month late but safe, tore them open with 
joy, then greeted the contents with wails of anguish. Little 
dreaming their menfolk had been transferred to a sunnier con- 
tinent, wives and sweethearts almost to a woman enclosed pack- 
ages of Dromedary dates. One look at the tired old dates and 
the conclusion was inescapable that they had crossed oceans and, 
like spawning salmon, returned to their birthplace to die. (Even 
louder cries of grief came from the boys who received Spam.) 

This was a Garden of Allah where Colonel Atkinson became 
Brigadier General Atkinson. He had no appropriate insignia in 
the desert. 

When the directive came through he barked, "Do they think 
I go around with stars in my pocket?" 

Nor was there any higher officer, as protocol demanded, to 
confer the promotion. An Arab craftsman was found, who 
hammered out a pair of rough but charming silver stars, and the 
C.O. had to pin them on his own shoulders. 

This was a Garden of Allah where I got the sniffles. Over- 
night this blew up into a roaring cold, and the flight surgeon 
grounded me for two weeks. This was standard practice for 
fliers. In the unpressurized planes of those days, the descent from 
the rarefied atmosphere of high altitude could cost an airman his 
eardrums, if he flew a mission with a cold. 

I welcomed the fortnight's delay because I had a great deal 
to do in preparation for the mission. But before anything else, I 
must find out what had happened to the Flying Flitgun. One 
worries about an airplane, I discovered, when it is your godchild. 

The Flitgun survived the invasion, I was relieved to learn. But 



IN THE GARDEN OF ALLAH 



221 




Brigadier General Atkinson: "Do they think I go around iwth stars 
m my pocket?" 



222 IN THE GARDEN OF ALLAH 

she had suffered what airmen regarded as a fate worse than 
death. She had become a "hangar queen." This sounded glamor- 
ous until I learned what it was. A hangar queen is a plane dam- 
aged just enough to be grounded and not too much to be a 
treasure-house of spare parts. No invasion ever carried with it 
enough spare parts. Obviously getting in whole airplanes is more 
important. The Flitgun arrived intact, participated in the capture 
of Oran, landed with its fellow B-iys. The bomber crews slept 
on the ground under their airplanes that night. When the Ger- 
mans came over and pounded the field, both the crew and the 
airplane escaped a direct hit, but a small bomb fragment set the 
Flitgun on fire. The crew put out the flames quickly enough, 
but not before the ship reached that delicate balance between 
damage and lack of damage that qualified her perfectly for her 
new role. She fell swift victim to marauders from other B-iys. 
(A Fortress lands with a cracked panel board. The Flitguris 
panel will fit perfectly and is ripped out in the dark of the night. 
A belly gunner needs a new door clasp for his plastic bubble. 
The Flitgun's bubble clasp removed nobody can say when is 
found to be completely interchangeable.) Even the "Peggy" 
engine itself was looted, and no one knew where it might be 
flying today. The Flitgun had become a hangar queen without 
even a hangar. 

However, the crew of the Flitgun carried through on the in- 
vasion without a scratch, and that was much more important. 
The boys were flying as many missions as ever parceled out to 
fill gaps caused by casualties in other Fortresses. They lived for 
the day when they could have their own plane and fly as a unit 
once more. 

Everyone on the post was delighted when the C.O. received 
his field promotion. His remark to the men "You take the risks; 
I get the credit" was greeted with appropriate guffaws of 
laughter, but the men knew very well he had taken all the risks 
and then some. An original and brilliant tactician, he had filled 
a key part in working out the flying tactics they were now 
using, and the men had enormous confidence in him. 

When die GO.'s homemade stars were finally ready for him 
to put on, I decided this was the time to give a party. Only that 
morning, I had come upon a chance to get spectacular refresh- 



IN THE GARDEN OF ALLAH 223 

ments. An Arab appeared out of nowhere with eggs lots of 
them the old-fashioned kind with shells on them. It had been a 
long time since the airmen here had met an egg in any form but 
powder coming out of a can. I sent word to the Arab I would 
buy all the fresh eggs he had. I chose a place for the party on 
the edge of a kind of dry gully in the desert, where there were 
lots of big stones to sit on. The Mess Sergeant helped devise 
barbecue facilities on a cairn of stones so the eggs could be 
cooked fresh on the spot. As soon as the General got his stars 
safely pinned on his shoulders, I did the rounds, passing out an 
e gg a guest as long as they lasted, and took orders as to how 
each man would like his cooked "sunny side up," "gently over," 
any way the guests wanted. I will never live down the embarrass- 
ment of it. One after another, we all made the bleak discovery 
that the eggs had already been thoroughly and undeniably hard- 
boiled. After the egg fiasco, we went to the fortune teller who 
had her H.Q. in the palm grove and did a land-office business 
with the airmen in the Garden of Allak She peered into the 
General's palm and told him he would have a long and pros- 
perous life and would come to possess three beautiful gardens, 
each one bigger than the last. She could have scooped us all if 
she had told him that three stars would find their way to his 
shoulders, each one greater than the last. At the time of writing, 
Lieutenant General Atkinson is head of the Alaska Command 
and one of the top handful of generals in the U.S. Strategic Air 
Command. 

During the two weeks I was grounded with my cold, I learned 
as much as I could about working inside the big bomber under 
conditions I had never met before. As for cameras, the Signal 
Corps generously for they were short themselves offered to 
lend me any equipment I could use. The Speed Graphic they 
let me have would be just right for the pictures I wanted to 
' get inside the ship during the mission, showing crew members in 
action at their posts. For aerials they lent me a pair of K-2os, 
an Army airplane camera built of rigid metal to withstand the 
vibration of the plane. The K-2o is no featherweight but was 
the best camera for the job. The boys warned me that die film 
lever stiffened and sometimes froze in die 4o-below-zero tem- 
perature I could expect at high altitudes. They were very 



224 IN THE GARDEN OF ALLAH 

concerned about this and so was I, but with the two, I could 
alternate and split the risk. In addition to worrying about my 
camera levers, they worried about my hands. I would be wearing 
electric mittens, but knowing how it is almost second nature for 
a photographer to pull off his gloves, no matter what the climate, 
they earnestly counseled me not to take off my mittens once 
we rose above 1 5,000 feet, or I could say goodbye to my hands. 

I remember how dramatic and strange it seemed to stand there 
on the baked Sahara floor and talk about working conditions in 
sub-zero weather only six miles awayin an upward direction. 
Within less than a decade everyday civilian passengers would 
travel at these heights as a matter of course, sealed into heated 
pressurized cabins. By contrast, we might have been planning to 
fly our mission in a fleet of aerial covered wagons. 

The 8-17 was a covered wagon that covered a remarkable 
amount of machinery. Huge and commodious as it looks on the 
outside, inside it is as crammed with twisted metal paraphernalia 
as a junk car lot. To be sure I would be using every working 
minute to its best advantage, the crew and I held actual dress 
rehearsals. Sweltering in borrowed high-altitude flying clothes of 
fleece-lined leather, layer upon layer in overalls, jackets, leg- 
gings, boots, leaden in weight, I practiced dragging myself and 
my hunks of cameras around inside the ship. I had to bear in 
mind that my energy would be greatly depleted in the rarefied 
atmosphere, making my clothes and equipment seem still heavier. 
I had to be sure I was picking spots for taking pictures which I 
could wriggle into and out of myself. 

I had to be drilled in oxygen, using a portable bottle which 
would give me a few minutes of roving; I had to learn where and 
how to plug myself back into the permanent oxygen line used 
by the men, before the other was exhausted. The incentive to 
master the oxygen technique was strong, since if I made a mis- 
take, I would last about four minutes. 

I had to choose, on consultation with the crew, the most im- 
portant viewpoint of all the spot to work during the few vital 
moments when we flew the bomb run over the target. The 
unanimous decision was the left waist window. This was a 
spacious opening in the side of the ship, but, like everything 
else, so filled with its machine gun and other bulky structures 



/ 'was flattered when this picture in my high-altitude flying suit became 
popular as a pin-up. 



226 IN THE GARDEN OF ALLAH 

that it left just a few chinks through which to work. I did not 
know till later that the crew members had placed bets on me. 
If we were attacked, would the waist gunner knock me out so 
that he could defend our airplane, or would I knock out the 
waist gunner so I would have room to take pictures? 

I don't believe I ever thought of this expedition for which we 
were all preparing as a mission of death. The impersonality of 
modern war has become stupendous, grotesque. Even in the 
heart of the battle, one human being's ray of vision lights only 
a narrow slice of the whole, and all the rest is remote so in- 
credibly remote. 

Other thoughts crowd in with a reality that is not at all remote. 
You know you may not come back; but that is one of the 
hazards of the road you have chosen, so you thrust that thought 
as far into the back of your head as possible. To me the mission 
was an entry into a different sphere from any I had ever been 
in or even clearly visualized, one that had its own equipment, 
its own rules, even its own morals. I approached it all in a mood 
of great solemnity. 

My pilot was a man of destiny although neither of us realized 
it at the time. He was Maj. Paul Tibbetts, an excessively quiet 
young man from Florida, solidly built with a strong cleft chin 
and unusually handsome features. He was a superb pilot and I 
was gkd he would be flying with me. 

Although I often sat beside him at mess, had photographed 
him for a full page in Life while we were all still in England, 
and by wartime standards I had known him for a long time, 
I seldom heard him speak an entire sentence. A phrase now and 
then, six or eight words, perhaps. Then, as though taken aback 
by his own boldness, he would fall quickly silent. But always it 
was a friendly silence. 

As the Major methodically went about his tasks against the 
theatrical backdrop of the Garden of Allah, no one could have 
guessed the strange role in history which this shy young man 
would play. Within less than three years, his would be the hands 
on the controls that would blast this planet into the Atomic 
Age. Tibbetts was selected to make secret test drops over die 
New Mexico desert, and on that fateful day when man made his 
epochal break with his scientific past, it was Tibbetts who flew 



IN THE GARDEN OF ALLAH 227 

the plane to a carefully chosen pinpoint of sky over Hiroshima. 
From here was dropped the Pandora's box whose escaping furies 
never in the history of our planet could be locked back. 

On the morning of my mission the awesome task that lay 
ahead for my pilot was undreamed of. The war was still young. 
A cool wind was blowing the fine sand in the desert. The veil 
still hung over the atom. 



228 



CHAPTER XX 



I GO ON A 
BOMBING RAID 



1 HE MORNING of my mission January 22, 
1943 dawned with clear wide skies promising the good visibility 
I needed. The brassy disk of the sun was just cutting through the 
monotone of the desert when my several hundred flying com- 
panions and I filed into the ruined villa. Here the secret briefings 
were held. I sat down with a group of airmen on the edge of a 
large fountain filled with sand. I hoped with all my strength the 
target would be a newsworthy one. I knew as little about where 
we would fly and what we would bomb as the men knew. 

Each day's selection of target was announced only within 
minutes of departure time as a safeguard against finding a "re- 
ception committee" over the target. The briefing officer removed 
the coverings from the maps and charts which hung on a wall of 
elaborate mosaic standing in the wreckage. He traced the flight 
plan. Yes, indeed, we had a major target. We were assigned to 
destroy the El Aouina airfield at Tunis. This was the chief air 
base used by the Germans in ferrying troops from Sicily. Axis 
planes were based here for their deep probing strikes against us. 
If we were going to push the enemy off the African continent, 
we must first knock out this airport. Tunis and nearby Bizerte 
were on what our fliers called "the daisy chain," a title inspired 
by the lavish bursts of white spreading antiaircraft fire tossed 
up into the sky whenever we attacked these twin strongholds. 
Today we would feint toward Bizerte, hoping to fool the enemy 
long enough to allow for the quick dash we had to make over 
our objective. It was decided I would fly in the lead ship. 



I GO ON A BOMBING RAID 229 

Today for our mission to Tunis we were still in the great 
Stone Age of bombing. We were packing old-fashioned bombs 
in old-fashioned bombers our trusty B-iys with their defensive 
cross fire and long offensive range, the planes which our airmen 
swore by. Our Flying Fortresses were monarchs of the skies, 
only we did not have enough of them. It was a measure of the 
importance of our target today that our battle formation num- 
bered thirty-two planesa record number in those days. Soon 
more planes would come and the air would thunder with hun- 
dreds of them. But today I had a kind of over-the-back-fence 
acquaintance with many of the B-iys. On our right wing was 
the Peggy Dee, and I knew the original Peggy was the fiancee 
of pilot Fred Dallas from Houston, Texas. 

The lead ship, in which Major Tibbetts was piloting me, was 
the Gargantuan Little Bill. I never found out who Bill was. On 
our left flank were Berlin Sleeper II and Berlin Butchershop HI. 
Behind them were Honey chile ///, Ferule Myrtle //, and many 
old acquaintances. I was sorry not to have the Flying Flitgun 
right off our wing so I could photograph it in action for the 
lead picture in Life. This spot in the magazine went to the Peggy 
Dee. But it was good to know that the Flitgun crew were with 
me on the mission, invisible like the salesman's overcoat on the 
expense account, parceled out to fill gaps in crews on other 
bombers. 

As soon as we were airborne, I began taking pictures of crew- 
men at their posts. I wanted to get these shots while I had full 
use of my hands before donning the clumsy electric mittens at 
15,000 feet. We were still at 14,000 when we crossed from 
friendly to enemy-held territory, although as far as I could see 
it was the same corroded desert below. The crossing of the in- 
visible boundary line was a signal for the bombardier to disappear 
into the bomb bay. I knew he was going to remove the safety 
pins which were installed to keep our bombs from exploding 
on our friends, in case we were shot down or crash-landed over 
our own territory. The idea of holding a bomb together with a 
safety pin intrigued me. I followed him to the great black cave 
of the bomb bay and squeezed in between the rows of bombs. 
When my eyes grew accustomed to the dim light, I could just 
make out the bomb racks stacked neatly like bookshelves in a 



230 I GO ON A BOMBING RAID 

public library, and amidst them the bombardier, who was pulling 
the safety devices out of the bombs. From all of them v he re- 
moved the yellow tags, which bombardiers always saved as 
souvenirs, and stuck them in his cap. When he started stuffing 
them in his mouth, I decided this was the point to take a picture. 
I checked focus, slipped in a flashbulb and made my shot. To 
our eyes, which had become adjusted to the darkness in the 
bomb bay, the flash seemed blinding. Through the interphone 
strapped to my ears, I could hear the bombardier crying out, 
"Jesus Christ! They're exploding in my hands!" 

While I had not intended to frighten the bombardier out of 
his wits, I was rather glad of the incident. It neatly contradicted 
the old wives' tale I had been pestered with ever since my early 
days in the steel mills and coal mines: the legend that if you 
bring a woman into a spot where men are doing dangerous work, 
her very presence will so distract them that they will be careless 
and have accidents. While I could hardly find it flattering to be 
put totally out of mind, still I welcomed this evidence that the 
bombardier had forgotten there was a woman on board, or a 
photographer, or a combination of both. 

An hour later it was I who forgot that anything existed except 
the need to get pictures. We were sweeping toward the Mediter- 
ranean coast. We had made our feint toward Bizerte. We had 
passed the ancient city of Carthage, a white smudge on the edge 
of the sea. The watery cross that marked the Tunis lagoon was 
plainly visible below. We were roaring to our goal, along that 
invisible road through the air which had been the center of all 
the planning, the calculations, the guesses, the hopes. Our for- 
mation swung into the bomb run, grouped in position to drop 
its bombs in a preconceived pattern and then take to evasive 
action. 

During the handful of minutes over the target when the inter- 
phones were kept clear for only the most urgent directives, the 
men heard over their earphones a string of high-pitched squeaks 
unlike anything they had ever heard on a mission before, a voice 
crazily and indisputably feminine: "Oh, that's just what I want, 
that's a beautiful angle! Roll me over quick. Hold me just like 
this. Hold me this way so I can shoot straight down." Airplane 
photography has been part of my working life for so long, and 



I GO ON A BOMBING RAID 23 1 

operating with a pilot who will put you in position to photo- 
graph fe such an integral part of it, that for a short time I had 
the illusion that the weaving flight of evasive action was carried 
on just to help me take pictures which, in fact, is exactly what 
it did. The intricacies of flying evasive action gave me every 
conceivable angle from which to take pictures. I was far too 
excited about the photographs I was getting to realize I was 
speaking out loud. Talking to myself meant talking to the entire 
ship, with all of us united by the throat mikes, earphones, com- 
munication lines which bound us together. Later, on the ground, 
the men told me they had nearly fainted when they heard my 
pipsqueak voice come through. Again, flattering or unflattering, 
they had completely forgotten there was a woman on board. 

Far below our fleet of planes, things were happening which I 
could see but not interpret. A white plume rose one mile high 
into the sky, and next to it grew a twin plume of black, tipped 
with spasmodic flashes of red. The fiery flashes darted higher. 
What could it be, I wondered. I'd better take a picture of it, 
just in case. And suddenly it dawned on me. These are our 
bombs bursting on the airfield. This is our target which we came 
to demolish! Then I saw another spectacle still more puzzling. 
In the air quite close to us were black spreading spiders, rather 
pretty, with legs that grew and grew. I couldn't imagine what 
they were, but again I dutifully photographed them, just in case. 
Suddenly I realized. This is ack-ack! They are shooting at us! 
We were hit twice in the wing, but only lightly damaged. Only 
after we were back in the Garden of Allah did I learn the bad 
news that two of our airplanes at the end of the formation that 
followed us were shot down. 

Next day we got the reconnaissance report of our raid. 
Timing had been perfect. We had caught the airfield when it 
was filled with German troops and planes freshly landed on the 
field. We had destroyed by bomb blast and fire more than a 
hundred of them. This was the key raid in the air war and pushed 
the Luftwaffe off the North African continent. Our mission was 
effective and successful. 

And so my own. I left the Garden of Allah and started home 
by way of Oran, the Gold Coast and South America. Messages 
from my New York office reached me along the way. It warmed 



232 I GO ON A BOMBING RAID 

my heart to be in direct communication with them again. By 
now wraps had been taken off, and they knew where I was and 
the stories I had been covering. The Pentagon had received 
some of my negatives by army courier pouch, and my editors 
had already started laying out the story, which was to be a lead. 
I was to learn later that they were topping the story with high 
letters like the marquee of a movie theater: "LIFE'S BOURKE- 
WHITE GOES BOMBING." I was to learn still later that the only 
thing the censors had cut out was General Atkinson's face. In 
the picture Life wanted to use, the General's face showed only 
as big as the profile of Liberty on a dime, but since it was be- 
lieved he was still unknown to the enemy as a personality, the 
Pentagon had kept him in the realm of military secrecy. The 
Pentagon's security needs were satisfied and the members of the 
97th Bomb Group were filled with glee when Life's art depart- 
ment solved the difficulty by painting on the General's face a 
splendid mustache. 

Shortly after I got back to New York, a picture of myself 
in those high-altitude flying clothes appeared with the Life story, 
and from there it skyrocketed into a brief popularity as a pinup. 
The reader must forgive me if I cannot conceal my vanity about 
this especially since the season was short before my rivals in 
their bathing suits (or less) displaced me on the walls of dugouts, 
barracks and Nissen huts, which are their rightful habitat. 

My homeward trip was a hitchhiking process, which meant 
traveling in any army vehicle which had a pair of wings and was 
flying in my direction. While we were still on the North African 
coast, I had a heartwarming experience. We had stopped to fuel 
at Oran. I was wandering about to pass the time when something 
across the field attracted my eye. It couldn't be! Yes, it was! A 
jeep driver took me to the spot. The empty hull of the Flying 
Flitgun stood forlornly at the edge of the strip. No Peggy engine, 
no bomb-bay doors bearing the magic words SAY WHEN, but the 
painting of the insects with the faces of Hirohito, Mussolini and 
Hitler stood out clear. Near her stood the newest hangar queen, 
Puffin Hussy 11. Some earnest-faced mechanics were delving 
into the Puffin Hussy and pulling out everything of value, mov- 
ing the various items over and laying them on the ground around 
the Flitgun. To me this was the dawn of hope. 



I GO ON A BOMBING RAID 233 

Then suddenly I had no time to inquire what the plans were, 
no time to scramble around the blackened interior, no time to 
gaze with nostalgia at the big round gap in front where the 
Peggy engine had been. A cargo plane had just touched down 
at the field, and I could go along in it as far as Port Lyautey if 
I could get myself and my gear packed inside it within the next 
ten minutes. 

So now I shall never know what the future held for the Flying 
Flitgun. I never learned whether the rejuvenation was a success. 
But I like to think my avian godchild perhaps with humbler 
duties as in some lowlier reincarnation was once again restored 
to the skies. 



234 



CHAPTER XXI 



'SUNNY ITALY' 



MONTHS after my return from covering 
the Air Force in North Africa, I asked to be sent overseas 
again to the Italian campaign. This time I wanted to record the 
war on the ground. I had seen the war in the air in all its remote- 
ness, but here was an earthbound world I had not known before. 
It was like a caterpillar view after you have been photographing 
skyscrapers. 

The very intimacy of the Italian conflict sharpened my aware- 
ness of human beings around me, and I began to listen to what 
people said. I mean really listen. Someone drops a phrase and 
you say to yourself, "No one else could have said just that thing 
in just that way. It is like a portrait of the man." Until then, I 
had considered myself eye-minded and let it go at that, but much 
as I love cameras, they can't do everything. The American 
soldier with his bitter humor and his peculiar gallantry had 
opened my ears. 

There was a haunting quality about that phase of the war, 
with all those American boys against the unfamiliar background 
of "sunny Italy." I tried whenever possible to capture the special 
flavor of a situation in words as well as pictures. If a GI in the 
photograph I was taking made some pungent remark, I jotted 
it down. I hoped this would enrich the material and help set the 
mood for the captions which Life would write in New York. 
The important thing was to get the words down while they 
were fresh in memory. Most of these notes had to be made on 
the fly, since we were always tearing in mad haste from one 
spot to another, and that meant writing on my knees while the 
jeep bucked and pitched over the muddy, disintegrating roads. 



"SUNNY ITALY" 235 

Writing in a heaving jeep is not recommended to improve any- 
one's penmanship least of all mine, which is as close to un- 
decipherability as anyone's could be. Sometimes there would be 
only two or three wildly scrawled letters on a page, or a single 
syllable. But no matter how unreadable it was, the sight of those 
scribbles would evoke the situation and the people in it. As the 
jottings piled up, I could see that sooner or later this was going 
to be a book. 

My assignment to Italy was an unusual one. A request for my 
services came from the Pentagon to Wilson Hicks, then picture 
editor of Life. I thought this was a great honor, and so did Hicks. 
There had been considerable concern in Army circles' because 
while the heroes in the air had been deservedly glamorized, not 
much attention had been given to the man on die ground and 
to his importance to the war effort. This was particularly true 
of the SOS the Services of Supply, now the Army Service 
Forces under Gen. Brehon Somervell. Sixty per cent of the war 
was a matter of supplying our troops by means of the giant 
chain-belt system known as logistics. The SOS was responsible 
for delivering to the spot where it was needed anything from a 
box of K rations to a tank destroyer. SOS included the Engineers, 
Ordnance, the Signal Corps and the Medical Corps. 

I was pleased to learn that it was my ability to photograph 
engineering subjects that impelled General Somervell to ask for 
me. As before with the Air Force, my work was for both Life 
and the Pentagon. This was an assignment of great scope that 
would give me a look at the war from many aspects. 

I went to Italy as the supplies went by way of North Africa. 
By coincidence I went by way of the El Aouina airport in 
Tunis, the very same airfield which I had seen from a great 
height as we wrenched it from the enemy in the bomb raid I 
accompanied. It was being put to brisk use ferrying supplies of 
all kinds to Italy. The massive debris of Nazi planes smashed in 
our raid had been shoved to the sides, leaving the runways open. 

While I waited for transportation, I wandered across the road 
and was caught up sharp when I saw a graveyard marked with 
painted swastikas. They were dated January 22, 1943 the day 
of our mission. There is no time in war to use up any pity on 
enemy dead, but for a moment those clumsy wooden swastikas 



236 "SUNNY ITALY" 

took away the impersonality of war and recalled the day when 
death rained from the skies. Meanwhile our front lines had moved 
forward into the "soft underbelly of Europe," and there was 
nothing left of these men who had been our enemies but pieces 
of painted wood shaped like swastikas instead of crosses. 

I reached Naples just in time to catch one of the most brilliant 
engineering feats of the entire war the heroic task of clearing 
the port for our use after the retreating enemy had sunk a har- 
borful of ships in double-deck fashion, one on top of the other. 
It was a pleasant surprise to find that the General in charge of 
this operation was Maj. Gen. Thomas B. Larkin. In the fall of 
1936, as a Colonel, he had directed construction of Fort Peck 
Dam, and it was with his assistance that I got Life's first cover 
picture and first photo essay. 

Through the General's office, I was assigned a jeep and an in- 
valuable driver who became my Man Friday throughout this 
whole phase of the Italian campaign. 

Corp. Jess Padgitt from Des Moines was blond, neat and 
twenty-one. He looked like any nice kid from Iowa and talked 
about as much as Harpo Marx. He was one of those rare souls 
who never have to be told anything twice; in fact, Padgitt seldom 
had to be told anything once. With no previous experience in 
photography, he noticed that I reached for articles in a certain 
order. On our second day out, he started handing me these items 
in that order. I like to have assistants like the Corporal who don't 
interrupt with chatter while you're working. When Padgitt did 
drop a word or two, I discovered it was well worth listening to. 

In the months to come I learned to appreciate a nice deep 
muddy ditch which I could roll into during a shelling. I learned 
to take a satisfactory bath in my helmet without upsetting it. I 
learned to live like a gypsy, out of my bedroll, and to sleep 
almost anywhere. 

When I visited the Engineers, I struck velvet. I stayed in a 
fourteenth-century monastery with fifty monks and some com- 
bat engineers, and I lived in a cell. The plumpest monk I have 
ever seen, Friar Tuck, the cook, fixed us* savory tidbits espe- 
cially spinach liberally laced with garlic and heaven knows what 
mysterious spices, which filled the stone-vaulted kitchen with an 
overpowering aroma. 



"SUNNY ITALY" 237 

The benign atmosphere of the monastery slipped away all too 
quickly when we started on each day's project. The Germans 
still held the highest peaks, from which they could look down 
on our bridge-building and interrupt us with an artillery bar- 
rage whenever they wished. The Engineers always said, "Jerry 
sits up there looking down his gun barrels at us, and he can pick 
just the man he wants to shoot." ("Or woman," I thought to 
myself.) 

The war had reached a most difficult stage, with our forces 
trying to crash their way through the ring of mountains that 
surrounded Cassino Valley. This was an area slashed through 
with steep gorges and cliffs and turbulent mountain streams. As 
the enemy pulled out, leaving a chain of demolished bridges, the 
Engineers with incredible speed put them back in again. This 
was made possible by perhaps the most revolutionary bridge de- 
sign in the history of military operations the Bailey Bridge, 
which went together like a giant Meccano set. 

So much technique is developed in war which has no peace- 
time use that I am always happy when something useful is car- 
ried over into the postwar world. After the war, I was photo- 
graphing the devastation of Hurricane Edna throughout New 
England the swollen rivers, and towns sliced in two. I met many 
Bailey Bridges, which I recognized as old friends. 

Another group of heroes who introduced an original tech- 
nique was die Grasshopper pilots, known as "the eyes of the 
artillery." They were a part of the ground war not the war in 
the air. This handful of artillery pilots had the ardor of mission- 
aries toward their perilous job. They flew in Piper Cubs, un- 
armed for lightness. The planes were fragile bundles of feather- 
light tubing and canvas, highly inflammable. Their only defense 
was their maneuverability. 

Their job was to scout out enemy artillery from above, phon- 
ing back the gun positions to our ground crew, who would then 
proceed to blast the hostile guns to pieces. The pilot over radio- 
phone would guide and correct our fire. 

During my five months on the Italian front, the Grasshoppers 
-frequently Capt. Mike Strok, a fellow Cornellian from Ithaca, 
New York flew me over various war-torn areas. Although I had 
done a great deal of airplane photography, never before had I 



238 "SUNNY ITALY" 

had a chance to hang out of an airborne birdcage with complete 
vision of earth and sky. There were no helicopters in World 
War II, and it was not until the helicopters came into general 
use at the time of the Korean War that I had such another inti- 
mate view of the earth beneath. 

One day I flew in the observer's seat with Capt. Jack Marinelli 
from Ottumwa, Iowa, who was going to search for a Screaming 
Meemie a German mortar that had been harassing our troops. 
To find it we flew over enemy lines. We picked our course over 
the crests of hills which surrounded Cassino Valley like the rim 
of a cup. Highway 6 the muddy road to Rome wound between 
bald rocky mountains, and we almost scraped their razor-blade 
edges as we flew over. We could see Italian civilians picking 
through the sickening rubble that once had been their homes. 
Then the land dropped away sharply, and all at once we were 
high over Cassino Valley. I was struck by the polka-dotted effect 
of the valley, with hundreds of thousands of shell holes filled 
with rainwater and shining in the sun. It seemed impossible that 
so many shells could fall in a single valley. It was as though this 
valley, in which so many had suffered and died, was clothed in 
a sequined gown. 

"It's been so rough down there," said Captain Marinelli, "the 
boys are calling it Turple Heart Valley.' " (Thereby naming 
my book, although I did not know it at the time.) 

From my overall view of the battleground I could see that 
every bridge below us had been blown up. The delicate arches 
of the small bridges were broken through the crest; the larger 
bridges were buckled like giant accordions. Parallel to each de- 
molished bridge was an emergency bridge which our Engineers 
had thrown up. 

Then we carne to a strip where there was no rebuilding at all. 
The pilot shouted, "That's no-man's-land. They're shelling our 
men just below, where you see the darker smoke. It's still too hot 
to rebuild these bridges." We crossed the front, and when we 
began to see bridges intact, he shouted, "Jerry territory." The 
Captain found his Screaming Meemie despite its camouflage. He 
spotted it by the bushes around it, which blew back violently 
with each gun blast. 

From now on, it was a two-way radiophone conversation be- 



"SUNNY ITALY" 239 

tween the pilot and the artillery gun crew back on the ground. 
The pilot gave the command to fire, and the answer would come 
back: "Eighty-eight seconds. On the way." Those 88 seconds 
were the rime it took the shell to travel its fourteen-mile journey 
from the muzzle of the Long Tom to the enemy mortar. Those 
88 seconds were precious nuggets of rime for me, because I 
could use my cameras while the pilot watched his watch. "We're 
going to be hanging around here for a while," said Captain Mari- 
nelli, "so speak up if you want to be put into position for any- 
thing special." 

There were many things I wanted to be put in position for. 
Below us it looked as though white grains of popcorn were burst- 
ing all over the valley floor. These were thickest in front of 
Cassino. The Benedictine monastery which stood at the foot of 
snow-capped Mt. Cairo was still unbombed, but the towns 
around it lay in white smudges of wreckage. Captain Marinelli 
maneuvered the plane so that strapped in securely I was prac- 
tically lying on my side over the valley. I got wonderful views 
of the battleground, with the white plumes of our smoke sheik 
rising in the foreground, followed by the deadly black bursts 
that knocked out the Screaming Meemie. 

Several times I saw other planes in the sky and called out to 
Captain Marinelli, but each time, they were friendly planes. The 
Captain said, "That's all right. Just tell me anything you see." 

What I missed seeing was a group of four German fighters. 
The Captain went into the steepest dive I had ever experienced. 
It was the neatest maneuver imaginable diving to shake the 
Focke-Wulfs, then wriggling our way through a stream bed so 
we were actually below the treetops, then back to friendly ter- 
ritory and to our own airstrip. Captain MarinelE had accom- 
plished his mission. He had destroyed die enemy mortar and 
given me some excellent airplane pictures. 

After my exciting experience in the Cub, I decided to run 
down the story still further by photographing the battery that 
had wiped out the Screaming Meemie at my pilot's command* 

I was planning to work all night with the heavy artillery. The 
target that night was a bridge on the road to Cassmo. The crew 
helped me plot camera positions as dose as possible to the muzzle 
of "Superman," which the big gun was called, and where I would 




Hotly contested Cassino Valley. 
The white puff in the foreground 
is from one of our shells, fired 
'when my Grasshopper pilot ra- 
dioed position of the Screaming- 
Meemie. On the longer slopes of 
Mt. Cairo is the ancient Benedic- 
tine monastery ishich provided 
the enemy with & long view of 
Highway 6, the strategic road to 
Rome. 



242 "SUNNY ITALY" 

not be swept off my feet by concussion. Every time the gun 
fired, I wanted to get four different effects with four different 
cameras. Two would be hand-held and two on tripods, one of 
them at a side-forward angle and one well back for an overall 
view. The relief gunners who were helping me divided into two 
sections, and each group manned a camera. The third camera 
was a Rollei with a peanut flashbulb for a trace of detail and 
operated by Padgitt. I placed him where he could get the gun 
crew in action just at the moment of recoil, with their eyes tight 
shut, mouths wide open, fingers in ears against the blinding, deaf- 
ening blast. The fourth was a roving camera a miniature- 
operated by me. 

The crew chief called out his commands: "Load! Ready! 
Fire! " Superman let forth a roar, and each of us from our various 
locations tried to catch it at the exact instant of firing. After 
each round, I changed films, reset the focus and figured out new 
camera angles. 

News of the excitement spread to nearby batteries, and their 
relief crews came up to help during the hours they were off duty. 
"It's 'Life Goes to a Party with Long Toms!' " the boys were 
saying. 

We had so many signals to one another that finally the boys 
said, "We think it would be easier if you would give the com- 
mand to fire." Each time the next round was due, I would yell, 
"Load! Ready! Fire!" at the top of my lungs, and four pictures 
would be taken on four cameras while that 155-111111. shell crashed 
into space. 

It was a little after midnight when the Brigadier General of 
the artillery brigade arrived on the scene. He had heard that some 
pictures were being taken, and he dropped by to see what was 
going on. Everybody was so busy synchronizing the shooting of 
cameras with the firing of guns that no one stopped for formal- 
ities with the Brigadier General. So many camera gadgets were 
being passed from one man to another that soon the Brigadier 
General found his hands full of film packs, cable releases and film 
slides. By that time, the enthusiasm for photography had risen to 
such a pitch that it wasn't long before the General was operating 
my camera while I was giving the command to fire. 

Dearest to my heart were the nurses and doctors in die for- 



"SUNNY ITALY" 243 



ward areas. They worked under the most formidable difficulties- 
rain, wind, endless hours, unseen dangers and the eternal mud, 
mud, mud. Ten surgical nurses in the newly established nth 
Field Hospital were working so close to the front lines that many 
a wounded GI was brought in and treated within the hour of 
his wound. These were soldiers who would have found certain 
death if there had been any delay. Those who could make the 
ambulance trip went five miles back to the larger 38th Evacua- 
tion Hospital. The little cluster of tents marked with their red 
crosses was ahead of our own artillery. The nurses had to get 
used to the two-way traffic of shells passing overhead. They 
learned to tell by sound which were ours and which were the 
enemy's. But they never could get accustomed to the way their 
beds trembled at night. 

Padgitt and I arrived at the field hospital at dusk after an ex- 
ceedingly busy day with the Signal Corps, up forward. I de- 
cided that a good night's sleep was next on the agenda. We could 
sleep tonight and work tomorrow. Padgitt went to the enlisted 
men's quarters nearby. I was billeted in the nurses' tent. I had 
hardly time to introduce myself to the nurses when a sound of 
rushing wind came out of the mountains. The nurses fell flat on 
the ground, and I followed their example. The sound swelled up, 
carving a screaming path toward us. Then all sound was swal- 
lowed up in a deafening roar. I thought the earth would never 
stop pelting on the tent walls. One end of the tent collapsed, but 
finally it was over. 

As we freed ourselves from debris, I heard Padgitt's voice. 

"You all right, Peggy?'' And with his help, I gathered up some 
camera equipment. The shell had fallen only thirty feet from us 
and had scored a direct hit on the mess tent. All that was left was 
a perfectly round hole in the ground and cans of rations blown 
all over the place. But it could have been much worse. Ten min- 
utes later, the night staff would have been in the mess tent for 
coffee and pancakes. 

Fortunately, the operating tent just beyond was intact, al- 
though the lights were gone. The camp's improvised electrical 
circuit had been strung through the mess tent. Some members 
of the staff were working on the wiring, trying to get tie lights 
back. Sporadically the naked bulb would shine cot and fade 



244 SUNNY ITALY 

again. Meanwhile the surgeons were performing operations by 
hand-held flashlights. 

That German shell was only the first of many that screamed 
over our hospital all through the night. Every few minutes that 
bloodcurdling warning would sound overhead, and the entire 
hospital staff, including Padgitt and me, would fall down flat, 
then rise to their feet again and try to continue to work. There 
was much changing and disinfecting of rubber gloves and steri- 
lizing of instruments. No sooner was this done when another 
whooshlike sound would grow into a rising shriek, and back we 
would go flat on our faces again. 

It was fortunate that I had independent lighting. I was using 
peanut flash, and I instructed Padgitt to hold extension cords 
far to the side to keep the lighting soft. I was operating a Rollei, 
and somehow Padgitt, in spite of the confusion, managed to keep 
those connection wires plugged into my battery case. Even when 
we were lying flat on the ground, I could still manage to lean on 
my elbows and operate the camera. Never have I seen such a 
night. There was no time for notebooks, but I kept my ears 
open as well as my eyes and tucked the phrases away in my mind. 

So many wounded were being brought in that the hospital 
was running short of plasma, running low on oxygen, running 
short of whole blood and almost out of Type A. The truck 
drivers and ambulance drivers were donating blood, members 
of the hospital staff were volunteering to give their blood, and 
even the gun crews, when they could be spared for a few mo- 
ments, came in rotation to donate blood. 

Most vividly I remember Clarence, from Texas. There wasn't 
much left of Clarence when he was brought in. His thighs had 
been nearly severed by shell blast. Clarence had lost so much 
blood that he was getting whole blood and plasma in both wrists 
instead of one. When his pale lips moved, Nurse Barnes, a tall, 
handsome girl from Texas, leaned over to listen. "They're taking 
my blood," whispered the soldier. 

"No, Clarence," said Nurse Barnes. "They're not taking your 
blood, they're just giving you something to make you stronger." 

"Do you learn all their first names?" I asked. 

"Always, when they're from Texas." Nurse Wilma Barnes 
was from Abilene. "It seems to help the boys to know someone 

Artillery barrage: supporting fire for an infantry action south of Bologna, 



246 "SUNNY ITALY" 

from their own home state is taking care of them." It happened 
that many of the wounded that night were Texans. This was 
because the famous 36th Division, composed largely of Texans, 
was engaged in the fierce fighting on the outskirts of Cassino. 

When the next shell sent us to the ground again, I noticed 
that Nurse Barnes, before she dropped down, took rime to check 
the positions of blood and plasma needles in the boy's wrists, and 
I heard her say, "Hold your arms still, Clarence," as she lay 
down on the ground beside his cot. As soon as we heard the 
bang of the exploding shell, the nurse was back on her feet 
checking those transfusion needles. I remember scrambling up 
after her and thinking it was a privilege to be with people like 
that. 

Clarence was moving his paste-colored lips again. Nurse 
Barnes leaned down to listen. I heard her say in her soft Texas 
drawl, "No, son, you can't have a cigarette yet. Just wait a little 
longer." When Clarence was moved to the operating ward, I 
followed. Padgitt moved my cameras and helped me to get set up 
in the new location. Then he said, "Can you get along without 
me for half an hour, Peggy?" 

"Of course," I replied. But I was secretly a bit surprised, 
because never before had the Corporal left me during an emer- 
gency. At the end of half an hour, Padgitt came back looking 
a little pale. It was only later that I found he had given a pint 
of his blood. His was Type A, the kind they were short of. 

The hours crawled on in their grotesque routine. The periodic 
whoosh overhead, the dive for the floor, up again and on with 
the work. The constant changing of blood and plasma botdes. 
The surgeons in battle helmets and gauze mouth-masks peering 
out with tired eyes. 

Clarence's breathing was becoming very shallow now. His 
pallid lips were moving, and Nurse Barnes tried to catch the 
whispered words. "He's asking for watermelon," she explained. 
"They often ask for their favorite foods when they are near 
death," and leaning over Clarence, she said, "They're not in 
season, son." 

"Cover up my feet," the boy murmured. And then, whisper- 
ing, "I'm so cold," he died. 

I took a last picture of those feet still in their muddy boots 



"SUNNY ITALY" 247 

and with the boy's own rifle between them, where it served as a 
splint for the crushed leg. I knew I was getting dramatic pictures. 
If these men had to go through so much suffering, I was glad, 
at least, I was there to record it. 

Wilma and I stumbled back to the nurses' tent together. Watch- 
ing death so close before my eyes, I had forgotten the wholesale 
screaming death being hurled down from the mountaintops. 
Occasional brilliant flashes threw shadows like those from moon- 
light across our path. It seemed quiet and normal to be back in 
the nurses' tent again, but not for long. Within minutes came 
a sound as though the whole Jerry mountain was rushing toward 
us, and we were pancaked under our bunks waiting for the 
sweeping terror to spend itself and die. 

"I'm going to make my bed right under the cot," said one 
of the nurses, dragging all her bedding to the floor and covering 
her face with her helmet. It wasn't much longer before we had 
all dragged our blankets down in the mud, and all of us stayed 
under our beds. "I pity our poor boys up there," said one of the 
girls. "Look at us. We've got heat. I worry about those poor 
boys in the foxholes. They can't even put on a pair of dry 
socks. They can't even build a fire." 

I began searching on my hands and knees in the dark for a 
safer place to put my cameras. Next to my bunk was a small table 
crowded underneath with barracks bags. I pushed away the 
barracks bags and put my cameras there. Then it occurred to me 
that the spot I had picked for my cameras would be a good place 
for me. I had just shoved my cameras out and slid under the 
table with all my blankets when Jerry started in again. 

"Fm really scared," said one of die nurses. 

"Come over and get in bed with me," said Wilma Barnes. 
"Then if we get hit, we'll die together." 

A new sound was growing out of the mountains, like a giant 
stalking toward us, closer and closer, until the last three steps 
crashed around us with the loudest sound I'd ever heard. "It's a 
creeping barrage," said the girls. 

"I'm worried about those poor boys in the hospital, boys still 
in shock," said Wilma Barnes. "They can't understand how if 
they're really in a hospital, it sounds as if they're in die field" 

"Can they tell?" I asked 



248 "SUNNY ITALY" 

"Oh, yes. They lie there and call out the names of the guns." 
A throaty reverberation began knocking through the hills. 
"Theirs or ours?" I asked. "That's thunder," said the girls. 
It seemed such a benign sound and oddly comforting when the 
rain started pelting down. "You know what I always think of 
every time they bring a boy in?" said Wilma. "My kid brother. 
Especially if the soldier's about the same age. Doesn't it always 
remind you of your brother?" 

And the girls began worrying about their brothers, scattered 
throughout the various war theaters of the world. I thought I 
could guess how proud their brothers would have been if they 
could have seen their brave sisters carrying on while a two-way 
barrage passed over their heads. 

I had my story now. I had completed my assignment. I had 
heroes, and I had heroines ten of them. It was time to go home. 

On the way home, a cable from Life reached me with the good 
news that the editors were planning to rush the Medical Corps 
story into the magazine as soon as the films arrived. These had 
been dispatched through Army channels according to routine 
procedure. Films taken by war correspondents went first to the 
Pentagon for developing and censorship; that done, they would 
be released to the magazine. 

I was especially pleased that I had gotten direct quotes that 
matched the pictures, which Life could draw on for captions. 
There would be a book in it, too, I was sure. There would just 
have to be. I was so brimful of words and pictures. 

When I arrived back in the Time & Life Building in New 
York, it seemed to me that Wilson Hicks was singularly grave in 
welcoming me home. "Sit down," he said. "I have something 
to tell you." 

"Good heavens! What have I done wrong?" I wondered. 

Wilson Hicks looked down at his desk thoughtfully for a 
while, as though he were trying to choose the right words. Then 
he told me they were afraid a whole package of film had been 
lost. No, it couldn't be true! How could my precious hospital 
pictures be lost? I recalled that my films had been divided into 
two packages. Which package was it? 

It was ironical that of the two packages, the one that was safe 



RESERVED FOR 

"SPEEDY* 

STAFF -ONLY 




250 U SUNNY ITALY" 

contained more prosaic pictures taken back out of shell range, 
while the whole sequence of the heroic surgeons and nurses 
under fire was in the package that was lost. 

All Life had been able to find out was that the two packages 
of pictures of the Medical Corps had arrived safely at the Penta- 
gon by military pouch. But somehow between the darkroom, 
which was on one floor, and the censor's desk, on another, that 
package of film disappeared. 

I was wild. I begged Hicks to let me go to Washington to 
lead a search. I knew General Somervell would put his back 
behind it because he had wanted the pictures so much. I went 
to Washington, and the search was made without success. Life 
managed to salvage a story somehow from the bits and pieces 
that remained, but of Nurse Barnes, the surgeons in their battle 
helmets, the truck drivers giving their blood, and Clarence, who 
wanted a piece of watermelon before he died, to this day not a 
trace has ever been found. 

It does no good when wisecrackers remark, "Anything can 
happen in the Pentagon." The wound remains unhealed. 



CHAPTER XXII 



THE 

FORGOTTEN 

FRONT 



O 



SHORTLY AFTER I left for home, Corporal 
Padgitt became Sergeant Padgitt. His quiet efficiency in helping 
me had been noticed in high circles, and he was offered a new 
post having something to do with photography. The only trouble 
with it was that it was too far behind the fines. "It sure is funny 
to be back out of range/' Padgitt wrote me. "I keep thinking 
of the rime I put in trying to sleep through that incoming and 
outgoing mail, not knowing when one of those letters post- 
marked Berlin was addressed to me." 

So he requested to be returned to his old infantry company, 
which was soon transferred to a very hot front. His unit was 
ordered to Anzio, which was, in Padgitt's words, "as noisy as 
New Year's Eve." "Here at Anzio," the next letter told me, 
"you carry nothing but your gun, plenty of ammunition and a 
lot of hope." 

While at Anzio, Padgitt did receive "one of those letters post- 
marked Berlin." He was leading a combat patrol when he was 
severely wounded. He gathered up a liberal amount of shrapnel 
and mortar fragments in his system, but this bothered him less 
than the bullet through his shoulder, which severed the nerves, 
leaving his right arm paralyzed. Despite his wounds, he had com- 
pleted the mission, and in doing so had covered himself with 



252 THE FORGOTTEN FRONT 

glory. But Padgitt said all he got covered with was "blood and 
mud. They tried to cover me with six feet of dirt and a white 
cross," he wrote me, "but I hadn't kissed my mom and my girl- 
friend goodbye, so I just refused." 

When Purple Heart Valley came out, Padgitt had his own 
place in the reviews, which was as it should be. John Mason 
Brown, in the Herald Tribune Sunday book-review section, 
wrote, "to the list of the most likeable characters emerging in 
works fictional or factual add Corporal Jess Padgitt. . . . That 
we leave him ... as 'one more purple heart,' only makes this 
taciturn but efficient young corporal the more eloquent as a 
GI's Everyman." 

But before my book could be published, it had to be censored. 
Correspondents, as part of their accreditation, must check with 
Washington army censors before final publication of articles or 
books. Getting Purple Heart Valley censored was a saga in itself. 
If I should ever write another book concerning military matters, 
I shall sprinkle it liberally with sentences of pure gibberish to 
give the censor something to cross out. Censors are a peculiar 
breed of mankind. They are born with red pencils in their 
mouths, and they simply have to use them. 

All this I discovered when getting my manuscript of Purple 
Heart Valley passed by the Pentagon. No correspondent objects 
if censors stick to the rules. Censorship is intended to serve the 
very important purpose of military security. 

There it stops. For example, if you write about a soldier's 
beautiful brown eyes, the censor is not to strike it out because 
he prefers blue eyes. My publishers were eager to get the book 
out so it would be timely, and I was mailing my manuscript to 
the press censor in Washington chapter by chapter, as quickly 
as I could get it written. 

My first bout with the censor was over the mention of Spam. 
Since I hadn't thought of Spam as a military secret, this warranted 
a trip to Washington in person. Those of my readers who had 
any connection with World War II will remember the unpopu- 
larity of Spam. There was nothing wrong with it except the 
frequency with which it turned up in the rations. Spam was a 
kind of symbol of army chow versus home cooking. 

In my manuscript I had described a Christmas party given by 



THE FORGOTTEN FRONT 253 

American officers in Naples to which singers from the San Carlo 
Opera Company were invited. Along with the Italian delicacies, 
the officers set out platters of Spam. We were amused at the way 
the opera singers made a beeline for the Spam. The censor cut 
out Spam ten times, but not without composing a substitute 
wording, such as "that luncheon meat" . . . "cooked ham" 
. . . "that product." 

I called on the censor in the Pentagon and said, "If Sad Sack 
can have Spam, I guess I can." And smiling, the censor said 
good-naturedly, "I guess you can." And he gave me back my 
Spam. The visits with the censor were always pleasant, but time- 
consuming for a girl who was trying to write a book. 

Friar Tuck was the next to feel the grazing of the censor's 
ax. Whole paragraphs were deleted. Among the items tossed out 
was the garlic-flavored spinach. And in another pleasant meet- 
ing, the censor acknowledged that there was no military secrecy 
involved, so I got back the spinach. 

In the book, I wrote of taking aerial pictures while the Grass- 
hopper pilot corrected artillery fire during the 88 seconds it took 
for the shell to leave the gun and reach its target. The censor 
approved everything with the exception of one small point. 
"Why should we give away to the Germans the maximum range 
of 1 55-mm. Long Toms?" 

Why should we indeed? I willingly took out the phrase. The 
censor wrote in 66 seconds to replace the 88, but it didn't seem 
right, somehow. I didn't mind a bit coming down to 66, but I 
wanted to be sure it was a logical change and made sense in artil- 
lery terminology. Before leaving Italy I had checked all possible 
points with the officers in command, not only questions of mili- 
tary security but of technical accuracy as well. I love engineering 
subjects and all the terminology that goes with them. Besides, I 
had a bet on with a general that I wouldn't make any artillery 
mistakes. 

After visiting the censor, I called on the editorial staff of the 
Field Artillery Journal, a technical Army publication. The artil- 
lery editors had a good laugh. They said, "We could give the 
censor a list of thirty-eight unrestricted bulletins in which the 
155 is discussed in detail. And the Germans have the same thing 
anyway." 



254 THE FORGOTTEN FRONT 

The editors were even more amused at the deletion of some 
artillery call letters Mike Uncle Charlie for MUG. The artillery 
alphabet (A for Able, B for Baker, and so on) is used around the 
world. The censor gave it back. 

By now my manuscript looked like pieces of Scotch plaid 
with phrases that were questioned underscored, examined and 
restored. It was a jungle of colored crayon with notations: 
"Red means delete." . . . "Blue over red means stet." . . . 
"Green over blue over red means delete." I chose one of the 
most marked-up sheets and framed it. 

While my experience with the censor was amusing, I found it 
also alarming. If a censor hasn't learn'ed what is not censorable 
in relatively simple matters, how is he going to know what is 
censorable in the field of military security and recognize what 
might give "aid and comfort" to the enemy? 

At the end of the contest, the total deletions came to two 
sentences. And these the censor urged me to delete as a favor to 
him. I had described some joyful American officers in Naples 
coming home from the opera where they had heard La Boheme. 
All the way home, the officers had burlesqued the singers at the 
top of their lungs. The censor hoped I would strike it out, as he 
didn't want it to appear that American officers were having such 
a good time. I agreed, and with that deletion They Called It 
"Purple Heart Valley" went to press. 

As soon as my book went into publication, I was ready to go 
back to the war. The overall picture had changed considerably. 
The much-heralded "second front" had taken place in Normandy, 
along with an airborne landing in the south of France. In Italy 
we occupied Rome and Florence. But the war in Italy was not yet 
won. It was moving into its second dreary winter. 

Members of the press had transferred almost in a solid block 
to France, where aU the news was. To make it worse, our boys 
were getting letters from their mothers, wives and sweethearts: 
"We're glad you're in a nice safe pkce in Italy instead of at 
the front in France." The effect on morale was most unfortunate. 
The Italian front was grimmer than before, and most of the 
soldiers there had been through two bitter winters, slogging 
through the mud and snow and getting killed as often as before. 
The war had ground down to a struggle of man against man, 



THE FORGOTTEN FRONT 255 

patrol against patrol, mortar against mortar. It was known as 
"the Forgotten Front." 

I like forgotten causes when they are good ones. I asked to be 
sent to Italy. On my arrival in Rome, Life cabled me: "Planning 
to run an indefinite number of pages of 'news-front 7 on the For- 
gotten Front." I went happily up to the lines. I think I'm not 
exaggerating when I say that everyone in the Fifth Army from 
General Clark down was glad that Life was going to do a big 
story. 

The scene of war had moved northward from Cassino to a 
point ten miles in front of Bologna. These last ten miles were 
being contested rock by rock. Some of the bitterest fighting was 
taking place in the ruins of a tiny town, Livergnano c< Liver and 
Onions" to the boys. 

This was the first time I had worked closely with Infantry. 
In Livergnano I first heard that ugly and so personal ting which 
means you're close enough to the enemy to make small-arms fire 
worth his while. My previous experiences had been with artillery 
shells and bombswhich are more impersonal. But these rifle 
bullets come singing out your name. 

There were wonderful subjects for pictures. I remember a 
waterfall frozen into mighty glass organ pipes. At its base were 
a few running trickles, which GIs were collecting in their hel- 
mets, to take a very cold bath. The unusual amount of snow 
tested the GIs' ingenuity. The men worked out new camouflages. 
They whitened their faces, sprayed their clothes with whitewash, 
painted their rifles and bazookas. Even the mules which carried 
supplies up into the high peaks were camouflaged with white 
sheets. Pillowcases cut with eyeholes were tied over their heads, 
which made them look frighteningly like members of the Ku 
KIuxKlan. 

Photographing the mules in the darkness of night presented a 
problem. Since the enemy was just ahead of us on the back slope 
of a rather low hill, we did not want them to know that there 
was any more than the usual activity that night. So I timed my 
peanut flashbulbs to match the regular harassing fire. We hoped 
that the lights from the bulbs would be swallowed up in oar 
gunfire. 

Most of my work along the lines was done with the celebrated 



256 THE FORGOTTEN FRONT 

88th Division, who presented me with their blue shoulder patch. 
I wore it very proudly, too, through the whole assignment. For 
the first time, I worked with patrols. I could not go out on them, 
of course, but I went to the last hopping-off place, the men 
sometimes maneuvering me into position twenty-four hours in 
advance, under cover of darkness. I could photograph our sup- 
porting fire, and then the men themselves, their weariness, and 
the work of the front-line medics. Almost always someone in the 
patrol came back minus a foot which had been blown off by 
shoe mines. And of course some never returned. 

I know of no more inadequate statement than one which fre- 
quently appeared in the press. "Routine patrol went out last 
night." I was always struck by the discrepancy between the 
terseness of the dispatch and the human suffering involved. 
Translated into heartbreak and danger, there was nothing routine 
about it. These were miserable little actions. The objectives 
were "to make contact with the enemy; to bring back some 
German prisoners alive, if possible, for interrogation." 

I had made what I thought were three hundred exciting pic- 
tures. The films were turned over to the press censor in Rome. 
The precious package went off "red bag" in the official Army 
pouch to Naples airport, from which it would go by air to 
Washington. Two or three days later, I went back to Rome, and 
my good friend Helen Hiett (Waller) of the Herald Tribune 
joined me for an early breakfast. 

She had important news, she said. Her manner was grave. This 
was unlike the Helen I knew who was always so buoyant. Helen 
said the correspondents had picked her to tell me this news. 
While she talked, my mind ran around in circles. Whom did she 
remind me of? Wilson Hicks, trying to find words to break the 
bad news. Oh, no, it couldn't be! Lightning doesn't strike twice 
in the same place. But it does. It does, I said to myself, and it has. 

Helen had not been able to get all the details, but she told me 
what she knew. The precious package had gone through Army 
channels, as always, to our Army Press H.Q. in Rome. The offi- 
cial courier jeep for transport between Rome and Naples airport 
contained three pouches that night: one for London, and two 
Washington "red bags," one of these containing my films. Some- 
where- between Rome and Naples, the red bag with my films was 



THE FORGOTTEN FRONT 257 

stolen. No one knows whether the driver stopped for a beer, or 
what, despite strict orders never to leave a courier jeep un- 
guarded. On the northern ran, I learned, there had been so 
many losses that a new directive was handed down: each courier 
jeep must carry an officer in addition to the driver; also, the 
pouches must be locked in a safe box nailed to the floor. No one 
had the imagination to extend these orders to the southern run 
until my films were lost. 

Rewards were offered over the Army radio, in the Stars md 
Stripes, in the Italian newspapers and Italian-language radio, with 
no success. My own theory is that the boy of course had his beer, 
or the equivalent, and that meanwhile some passing Italian 
thought there was food in that pretty red bag. When he saw 
what he had, he was frightened and destroyed it. 

I managed somehow to pull myself together after this crush- 
ing blow, and packed equipment and a clean shirt to go back. 
I had wired Life to make sure they could still use the story if I 
did it again, for the element of timeliness is very important with 
a piece like this. The editors cabled in reply that they would use 
it at any time, but "don't take too many risks." 

Up at the front, everybody had heard about it on the radio, 
and their grief was greater than mine, if possible. There is some- 
thing demoralizing about going back to a place to retake pictures. 
You can no longer see your subjects with a fresh eye; you keep 
comparing them with the pictures you hold in memory. And 
everything is changed. 

The snow had thawed. The organ pipes had melted. Even the 
famous Italian mud would have helped. The drama of the white 
battlefields had vanished; the drama of the mud had not yet 
begun. No longer did soldiers whiten their boots and bazookas; 
no longer were mules masked like the Ku Klux Klan. Life ran a 
generously large story. But nothing was the same. 

I know very well that when you choose to record a war, you 
must be willing to accept the hazards of war. I think what hurt 
me the most was that both the losses were due not to war but to 
just plain, unadulterated carelessness. 



CHAPTER XXIII 



"WE 

DIDN'T KNOW, 

WE 

DIDN'T KNOW" 



I LEFT the Forgotten Front and flew by way 
of Paris into Germany to the exceedingly lively front on the 
River Rhine. 

The war was racing toward its close in that crucial spring of 
1945, and we correspondents were hard pressed to keep up with 
the march of events. It was truly a Gotterddrnmerungz twilight 
of the gods. No time to think about it or interpret it. Just rush 
to photograph it; write it; cable it. Record it now think about it 
later. History will form the judgments. 

I was with General Patton's Third Army when we reached 
Buchenwald, on the outskirts of Weimar. Patton was so incensed 
at what he saw that he ordered his police to get a thousand 
civilians to make them see with their own eyes what their leaders 
had done. The MPs were so enraged that they brought back two 
thousand. This was the first I heard the words I was to hear re- 
peated thousands of times: "We didn't know. We didn't know." 
But they did know. 

I saw and photographed the piles of naked, lifeless bodies, the 
human skeletons in furnaces, the living skeletons who would die 
the next day because they had had to wait too long for deliver- 



"WE DIDN'T KNOW, WE DIDN'T KNOW" 259 

ance, the pieces of tattooed skin for lampshades. Using the 
camera was almost a relief. It interposed a slight barrier between 
myself and the horror in front of me. 

Buchenwald was more than the mind could grasp. It was as 
though a busy metropolis had frozen in attitudes of horror. But 
even Buchenwald paled before some of the smaller, more inti- 
mate atrocity camps. 

I remember one we stumbled on just as our Army was in the 
act of capturing Leipzig: the labor camp of the Leipzig-Mochau 
airplane small-parts factory. The camp was a modest little square 
of ground enclosed by barbed wire. The bodies were still smold- 
ering when we got there, terribly charred but still in human 
form. We learned the ghastly details from one of the few sur- 
vivors. The SS had made use of a simple expedient to get rid of 
the inmates all at once. The SS guards made pails of steaming 
soup, and as soon as the inmates were all inside the mess hall, 
the SS put blankets over the windows, threw in hand grenades 
and pailfuls of a blazing acetate solution. The building went up 
in sheets of flame. Some escaped, only to die, human torches, on 
the high barbed-wire fence. Even those who were successful in 
scaling the fence were picked off as they ran across an open field 
by savage youngsters of the Hitler Jugend shooting from a tank. 
There had been three hundred inmates; there were eighteen who 
miraculously survived. 

To me, those who had died in the meadow made the most 
heartbreaking sight of all. To be shot down when they were so 
close to freedom, when the Allied armies were at the gates of the 
city. It was understandable that die Germans destroyed their 
bridges to slow up our advance. But to destroy these miserable 
people what sense was there in that? 

A final touch was added by the retreating Germans. On a 
flagpole set to one side they had run up a white surrender flag 
over the acre of bones. 

People often ask me how it is possible to photograph such 
atrocities. I have to work with a veil over my mind. In photo- 
graphing the murder camps, the protective veil was so tightly 
drawn that I hardly knew what I had taken until I saw prints 
of my own photographs. It was as though I was seeing these 
horrors for the first rime. I believe many correspondents worked 



260 "WE DIDN'T KNOW, WE DIDN'T KNOW" 

in the same self-imposed stupor. One has to, or it is impossible 
to stand it. 

Difficult as these things may be to report or to photograph, 
it is something we war correspondents must do. We are in a 
privileged and sometimes unhappy position. We see a great deal 
of the world. Our obligation is to pass it on to others. 

My mission during this final phase of the war in Germany was 
to photograph, from both the air and the ground, each main 
industrial center as we captured it. A department of the Air 
Force, called by the formidable initials USSTAF (which stood 
for United States Strategic and Technical Air Forces) put at my 
disposal a small observation plane. The pilot had a fortunate gift 
for skirting shell craters when we had to land on some densely 
pockmarked field to refuel. We carried our gas with us in jerry 
cans along with our bedrolls and rations. Life planned to use my 
aerials of ruined cities and factories for a photo essay to be called 
"The Face of the Moon." USSTAF would use my work as part 
of a far-reaching analysis of heavy bombardment. 

The top experts of USSTAF must have known but certainly 
I did not there was something in the wind that would make 
even this thundering poundage obsolete. The endless mash of 
devastation I saw below me as I flew would make one wonder 
why there should be any need of improvement on old-fashioned 
bombs. 

In the early 19308, when Life magazine was still unborn and 
Fortune was in its infancy, the editors of Fortune had sent me to 
photograph the Reichsivehr, the German Army, which was 
using its ingenuity to the full to evade the restrictions of the 
Versailles peace treaty. The Allies' purpose was to insure, after 
World War I, that a militant Germany never again could rise 
to threaten the peace of the world. The Germans were pro- 
hibited from having heavy artillery, military planes and tanks. 

I found them practicing with all sorts of tin and paper con- 
traptionswooden machine guns, papier-mache tanks and toy 
airplanes as targets for dummy antiaircraft guns. All this was part 
of the relentless effort to keep their men trained in war an effort 
that bore fruit in the rise of Hitler, culminating in World War II. 

Now in March, 1945, when I arrived at the front on the Rhine, 
Cologne was split in two by the opposing armies. The German 



"WE DIDN'T KNOW, WE DIDN'T KNOW" 261 

Army clung stubbornly to the east side of the Rhine while we 
held the western bank with its famous cathedral. The twin towers 
of the cathedral remained miraculously intact, though bombers 
by the thousand had come and gone. 

Inside the cathedral, the floor was strewn with rubble, and I 
found some GIs celebrating their victory in gushing champagne. 

"Champagne is a military necessity," shouted one of the boys, 
and he waved me to join them. Another added, "We've had so 
much champagne, we're brushing our teeth in it." 

"This is the beginning of the Through-the-Looking-Glass 
country," I thought, "the place where you brush your teeth in 
champagne!" 

"There are vaults and caves full of stuff under these streets," 
said another soldier. "Everything a person could want. We 
haven't had time to go through half of it yet. Let's go looting." 

This was my introduction to a very interesting sidelight of 
war the world of looting. In other countries through which the 
war carried me, looting never became the big-time obsession 
it was in Germany. But now we were in the country of the 
enemy, the enemy from whom we had suffered so much and who 
had stolen so much from other vanquished countries. 

My GI companions and I started for Hohe Strasse. We ran 
past the skeleton of the 47 1 1 Cologne building and stooped low 
as we hurried through open portions of Cathedral Square. The 
Germans had direct vision on us once we left the cathedral. They 
were likely to drop in a mortar shell or two, if they saw signs 
of life. The boys led me to a stone pile which looked exactly 
like any other stone pile. They pulled stones away until they 
found a little opening. We let ourselves down through a hole, 
down a ladder, through another hole, and down a precarious 
stairway until we found ourselves in a third subbasement below 
the street. 

This weird cave was a cross between Macy's bargain basement 
and your grandmother's attic. There were piles of folded lace 
curtains, boxes of damask tablecloths and napkins, chests of flat 
silver, cases of wine, lots of cheap red cotton flags with swastikas 
machine-stitched on them in bkck. I was shooting with my 
Rollei and with a peanut flash. With every blaze of flashbulbs I 
caught glimpses of GIs searching through the confusion, un- 



262 "WE DIDN'T KNOW, WE DIDN'T KNOW" 

corking bottles and poking their way from one cavelike chamber 
to the next. One of the soldiers helped me climb through a chink 
in the wall into a vault where furs were stored. I was having hard 
work to estimate the footage and keep my camera properly set 
for it, but I kept on shooting one roll after another, pointing the 
lens toward what seemed a blizzard of fur, as the boys embarked 
on a search for mink. 

They were unsuccessful in finding any mink, but one soldier 
held up one of those scraggly, nondescript little pieces and asked 
me if I wanted it. I didn't care for it. I thought it looked a trifle 
on the vulgar side and trashy. The GI tucked it under his arm. 
Months later in Paris, I learned it was platinum fox, appraised at 
$2,000, and the soldier had given it to a French actress for rea- 
sons which were quite clear in his mind at the time. 

In the cave of furs and oddments, I had caught sight of just 
one thing I wanted. It was a mammoth Nazi flag in heavy silk, 
ornately bordered with white fringe cord. A few weeks after our 
looting party, my huge Nazi flag, by that time elaborately auto- 
graphed by war correspondents, famous pilots and assorted no- 
tables, disappeared from my barracks bag, and I learned a funda- 
mental lesson about loot. It is almost inevitably stolen from you. 

From the day of the cave exploration, I became very much 
interested in looting as a by-product of war. I suppose it should 
have shocked me, but it didn't. There is a curious psychology 
about looting. "To the victors belong the spoils" is only part 
of it. For weeks, months or years that enemy has been shooting 
away at you. When you move into his hometown, you feel you 
own it. You're overwhelmingly curious to see how he lived and 
what kind of fellow he was. It becomes a fever, highly contagious. 

The cellars were astonishing in the prosperity they showed. 
In a house in Frankfurt, which we correspondents had requisi- 
tioned as a press center, the cellar was a veritable cornucopia of 
good things. Two of everything: two fur coats, two evening 
wraps, piles of white bed linen and table linen. They must have 
bought up every useful article they could find as a hedge against 
inflation. 

Of course, everybody looked for iron crosses and dress swords. 
Any enemy decoration always makes the best-possible souvenir. 
To me, even more interesting were the civilian medals. Mother- 



"WE DIDN'T KNOW, WE DIDN'T KNOW" 263 

hood medals for Childbearing; fatherhood medals for Reliable 
Service; National Sacrifice medals. The need of incentive must 
have been great, if the Nazis had to turn out decorations in such 
variety and numbers. The civilian medals were of cheaper mate- 
rial than the military ones. They became flimsier and trashier as 
the years of war advanced. You could almost read the colkpse 
of Germany in its medals. 

War makes its own morals. Looting has its own code of ethics. 
First of all, you don't call it looting, or stealing or appropriating 
or requisitioning or scrounging but liberating. The rules of 
honest liberating are quite strict, though largely unwritten. You 
don't liberate anything from a house that has people living in it, 
but if the house is empty indicating the people have run away 
or if the house is partly wrecked, it is fair game. 

Looted wine has first priority whether or not you brush your 
teeth in it. Unusually troublesome items were left behind, like 
the fine china demitasse cups of which the Germans are so fond. 
That was my specialty. I love coffee, and I loved the little coffee 
cups. I wasn't above taking some clean linen from a cellar 
hideaway. Most of it carried embroidered monograms. I had a 
regular procedure of tucking fresh linen into my bedroll and 
leaving well-used linen behind. I often wondered what those 
German housewives thought when they came back and found 
the wrong initials. 

Highly desired was a liberated car. This was usually not looted 
but arranged through Military Government, for we needed 
transportation. The difficulty was that the car was always break- 
ing down in inconvenient places. You simply sought out one 
of the huge bombed car lots of automobile wreckage and poked 
through it, hoping to liberate a fender or a crankshaft or what- 
ever it was you needed. Sometimes you could liberate a good tire. 

We correspondents and officers often talked about the loot- 
ing fever, and wondered if we would drop our looting habits 
when the war ended. We talked about whether we'd have to nail 
down things in our own houses, if any of us visited each other. 

The zenith of looting was achieved when we took Munich 
Hitler's hometown. Munich, where it all began in 1920 the rise 
of Hitler, the Nazi Putsch, the Hofbrauhaus, the home of 
Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler's personal photographer, and the 



264 "WE DIDN'T KNOW, WE DIDN'T KNOW" 

rustic house which had been occupied by "Strength-Through- 
Joy'' Ley, which was next door to the luxurious home which we 
requisitioned for a press camp. When I made my airplane pic- 
tures, I flew over these Nazi shrines like a tourist, with a Baedeker 
tucked into my safety strap. 

Hitler's private apartment was taken over by the Rainbow 
Division for a headquarters. They had earned it by capturing the 
city. Here there was loot with prestigesuch high-quality loot 
that nothing else could compare with it. I arrived on the scene 
a day late because I had to get my airplane pictures first, and 
when I got to Hitler's flat, the place was swept clean. Every 
movable article that was not too heavy or too inconvenient to be 
liberated had been removed by GI collectors. I was just about to 
leave in discouragement when I found a pile of Bohemian glass 
plates in a pantry closet very large, very lovely and very incon- 
venient to carry. Then I spotted an even more cumbersome art 
object; it was a pair of weighty dancing girls with floating skirts, 
cast in bronze. 

Then the Rainbow Division boys urged on me still another art 
object. It was a tall green metallic nude from Hitler's study. They 
wrapped it expertly in blankets, along with the dancers and the 
Bohemian glass plates. I sent the unwieldy booty to Paris by 
courier plane, planning to pick it up on my way home after 
the war ended, an occurrence that was expected any day now. 

Replacements were pouring in to take the place of the soldiers 
who had fought overseas for so long. A kind of deterioration 
took place. The newcomers had little appreciation of the rule 
that looting is the province of the soldier who has been fired on. 
They had never heard of the liberator's code of behavior. The 
replacement troops began looting the looters. 

Somewhere between the airfield at Munich and the airfield at 
Paris, my Hitler souvenirs evaporated. We should say they were 
liberated a second time. To anyone who did not know they were 
Hider's, the statuary was just a pile of heavy junk to be ditched 
at the next stop. I wish that the green looters who stole them 
from me at least had known that they came from the home of the 
Fiihrer. I grieved about these losses for a while, and then I de- 
cided that I really did not want any ghoulish reminders of Adolf 
Hitler. 



"WE DIDN'T KNOW, WE DIDN'T KNOW" 265 

When the war ended, the transformation took place that we 
had talked about. We stopped stealing. Our thirst was quenched, 
the curiosity satisfied. The craze faded away in dull colors, and 
we returned to normal standards once more. 

After V-E Day, I went to Essen to do a story on the Ruhr, 
and stayed in the fabulous Krupp castle, Villa Hiigel, home of 
the dynasty of munitions makers. The very name of Krupp 
suggested the crunch of a military boot on gravel. For over a 
century, the Krupps had been the chief source of Germany's 
military might, and in the years building up toward World 
War II, Krupp had supported the rise of Hitler. 

There was a certain fitness in the Allied Control Commission's 
requisitioning of Krupp's mansion for a headquarters. One of 
the Commission's chief purposes was to undo the very militarism 
the Krupps stood for, and to insure that never again would a 
dictator rise to power on the myth of race supremacy. 

Target teams were arriving at Hugel to ferret out the scien- 
tific discoveries of the enemy, to investigate everything from 
submarine parts to infrared detection; financial sleuths arrived, 
with the purpose of unraveling Germany's tangled economy and 
to capture the big financial figures behind the scenes, such as 
Schacht and Stinnes, who went into hiding, and of course, 
Alfried Krupp himself. Krupp was now under house arrest. 

While Herr Krupp was confined to the servants' quarters, I 
occupied his suite in the castle, and I slept in Herr Krupp's bed. 
The Krupp suite was without question the most remarkable 
billet in all my experience as a war correspondent. There were 
twenty walnut wardrobes which lined a dressing room two 
stories high. The lofty ceiling was painted with a goddess rocking 
dangerously on a crescent moon, her hair pinned back with a 
star. 

Herr Krupp's taste in bathrooms was in keeping with the 
decor. Never have I seen so many faucets, levers, sprays, showers, 
gooseneck water taps. And they were all of gold. The tub itself 
was hollowed out of an enormous slab of marble, and could be 
rocked back, forth and sideways. Various golden attachments 
made it possible to get a squirt of water in any direction that 
the armament king might wish. 



266 "WE DIDN'T KNOW, WE DIDN'T KNOW' 

Directly down the hall was another suite as spectacular in 
size and furnishings. Alfred Krupp, the grandfather, had de- 
signed it for his imperial friend, Kaiser Wilhelm II. The bath- 
room fittings were less pretentious than in Herr Krupp's bath, 
but equally luxurious. And on the bathroom floor was a little 
white wolf rug. The sleeping chamber was hung with tapestries 
depicting the Garden of Eden. When the Kaiser opened his royal 
eyes after a restful night at Hiigel, he could lie in bed and study 
the priceless needlework which covered his bedroom walls, the 
life story of Adam, the first recorded Jew. 

The Villa Hiigel had its own private railway station, large 
enough to accommodate two private railroad trains, Herr 
Krupp's and the Kaiser's. The overall effect of the estate was a 
cross between Versailles and Valhalla. 

Odd as it may seem, it was in the lush setting of Hiigel that 
looting became a thing of the past. Some young American officers 
with previous experience in hotel management took charge of 
the mansion when it was requisitioned. They fixed up the vast 
ballroom as an information center. They brought out enormous 
tablecloths for the loo-foot dining room table where the experts 
and investigators would have mess. They unpacked and counted 
the silver tableware and the many many gold ice-cream spoons. 
They inventoried everything: the impressive yachting trophy 
presented by George V of England in 1901; the coffee service 
contributed by Kaiser Wilhelm, with his imperial profile en- 
graved on each bowl and pitcher; the silver cup presented by 
Adolf Hitler, with his profile inlaid in a medallion. These temp- 
tations to anyone who might be loot-inclined were put behind 
double-locked doors. 

Young Alfried Krupp was in line with the times in his use of 
concentration camps as a source for slave labor, even reaching 
as far as Buchenwald on occasion. Efficient in all things, the 
company was efficient in exterminating workers who had worn 
out their usefulness. They were lined up around a shell hole, 
their wrists tied together with telephone wire, and then shot 
in the back of the head so they would fall neatly into the hole. 
Most of die exterminating was done by a Gestapo gunman 
named Paschen, who took enormous pleasure in these assign- 
ments, I was in Essen when he was captured by the GIG. He had 



"WE DIDN'T KNOW, WE DIDN'T KNOW" 267 

a face that looked half finished, and when he was taken prisoner, 
he wept great tears. 

But of course there was never any need for steelman Krupp 
to meet triggerman Paschen on either a social or a business basis. 
The Arbeitsfront handled all labor problems in Essen. It was 
fortunate for Alfried Krupp that he was under arrest when the 
Essen shell holes filled with bodies were found, because that 
saved him from the unpleasant task required of other leading 
citizens, including the Mayor of nearby Duisburg, who were 
called out to help dig up the bodies and give them a decent burial. 

During my stay, Alfried Krupp was allowed to spend just 
one hour in the mansion. This was at my request, as I wished to 
photograph him against the background of family portraits. 
Alfried Krupp was young then, only thirty-eight, and he had 
succeeded to the Krupp throne during World War II. Hand- 
some, in a bloodless way, he had a look of bred-out aristocracy. 

While I worked, I questioned him. He evaded as long as he 
could the embarrassing subject of forced labor. He called it by 
the prettier name of "foreign workers." He claimed that they 
came voluntarily and were paid more than his regular workers, 
These were tall stories. He added that the only inconvenience 
the foreign workers suffered was when they were bombed and 
their barracks set on fire by Allied air raids. 

As Krupp gave insolent answers to my questions, I marveled 
at his audacity. How could he think any informed person could 
believe he didn't know about the atrocity camps? I was reminded 
of a comment: "The Germans act as though the Nazis were a 
strange race of Eskimos who came down from the North Pole 
and somehow invaded Germany." 

Krupp mumbled, "There might have been a few psychopaths 
yes, there might have been a few maniacs who misinterpreted 
the instructions." Yes, he had heard rumors that much he did 
not deny. 

"In our country," I said, "we have public-spirited citizens who 
will protest when something happens they think is not right. 
Why didn't you investigate?" 

"The SS would have said it wasn't my duty." 

I had heard enough of this, and I had him sent back to the 
servants' quarters. 



[OVERLEAF] The living dead of Bucbemvdd, April 



2jo "WE DIDN'T KNOW, WE DIDN T KNOW 

Some months after I had returned home, and my book "Dear 
Fatherland, Rest Quietly" came out, the U.S. Treasury made use 
of it in the Nuremberg trials. The haughty Herr Krupp was 
required to stand before a military tribunal while the chapters 
concerning him were read aloud, and he testified to the truthful- 
ness of the statements. 

For a new book, this was indeed a captive audience of one. 

Villa Hugel was such a showplace that we had many visiting 
notables, among them Field Marshal Montgomery, who came to 
inspect the wreckage of the Krupp plants. After the inspection, 
the Field Marshal and four accompanying generals proceeded to 
Hugel, where we had a large reception for him. We had a few 
problems preparing for that party. We knew that the Field Mar- 
shal was an absolute teetotaler. We compromised by serving tea 
and peanut-butter sandwiches for all who wanted them and to 
the rest of the guests nothing stronger than wine. Oh, but such 
wine! The Krupps must have had a connoisseur's taste or else 
expert advisers. Some of the rarest wines in the world were in 
their cellar. They were museum wines and every drop was 
bottled sunlight. 

After the refreshments, we took our guests on a tour of the 
castle. They saw everything from the steam-heated swimming 
pool to the twin suites for Krupp and the Kaiser. And then the 
unthinkable happened. 

For weeks we had lived at Hugel in the midst of all the 
luxuries, all the portable souvenirs, without so much as a single 
golden ice-cream spoon finding its way into anybody's pocket. 
But on the grand tour of generals through the castle, one of 
them, an American wearing two stars, caught sight of the little 
white wolf rug on the Kaiser's bathroom floor. Picking it up was 
obviously impossible in the company of so much other rank. He 
motioned to his aide and jerked his thumb. The aide, understand- 
ing perfectly, rolled up the rug and carried it away under his 
arm. The indignation of all of us was without measure. There 
was special scorn on the part of the soldiers, with whom only 
action under fire carries with it the right to loot. "And that big 
wheel," the boys said, "never heard a gun fired unless it was in 
a parade." 

The long old-fashioned war was over now, and the age of 



"WE DIDN'T KNOW, WE DIDN'T KNOW" 271 

nuclear fission was beginning, with its stupendous potentialities 
for peace or war, but no more promise of solving human prob- 
lems than the war that had just ended. Those of us who had 
covered World War II and its aftermath, whether correspond- 
ents, investigators or soldiers, never dreamed that so many ob- 
jectives our boys fought to win would be phantom victories 
scattered to the winds. 

Who would have guessed that the powerful financial figures 
who were the main underwriters of the Nazis and who were 
run down so triumphantly by our experts at Hiigel would be 
reinstated in their positions of influence? I doubt whether Herr 
Krupp himself dared expect that his twelve-year prison sentence, 
given him at the Nuremberg war criminal trials, would be re- 
voked, and in less than three years he would be back at the helm 
of his massive network of martial industries. 

Even the shell holes filled with dead would be conveniently 
forgotten, and the recollections of the concentration camps would 
be blurred with time and incredulity. The world would need 
reminders that men with hearts and hands and eyes very like 
our own had performed these horrors because of race prejudice 
and hatred. 



CHAPTER XXIV 



THE BIRTH 

OF 

TWIN NATIONS 



1 WAS GLAD to turn from the decay of Europe 
to India, where Life next assigned me. I had always thought of 
India as an old country. It was a discovery to learn she was also 
a very young one. My insatiable desire to be on the scene when 
history is being made was never more nearly fulfilled. I arrived 
there in 1946 when India stood shining and full of hope on the 
threshold of independence. I witnessed that extremely rare event 
in the history of nations, the birth of twins. I had a historical 
drama to photograph, with a full cast of characters, including 
villains and one of the saintliest men who ever lived. And when 
the saint v^as martyred, I was near. 

Gandhi's death marked the end of an epoch. I was privileged 
to record its final two years. They were the key years, covering 
the vital cumulative period with various clashing forces: Hindus 
and Muslims, Congress Party and Muslim League, princes and 
peasants, British business and colonial interests, and in the back- 
ground, the British Cabinet Mission going through the solid, 
dignified gestures of partitioning and surrendering an empire. 

It took me two years to appreciate the greatness of Gandhi. 
It was only in the last act of the drama, when he stood out so 
bravely against the religious fanaticism and prejudice that I began 



THE BIRTH OF TWIN NATIONS 273 

to glimpse his true greatness. He was an extraordinarily complex 
person, with many contradictions in his nature. Some of his 
opinions I found difficult to reconcile. One was his opposition 
to industry and scientific agriculture. That an emergent nation 
like India needed modern industry seemed to me self-evident. 
This conviction of Gandhi's that machinery was intrinsically 
evil particularly disturbed me because of my love of the machine 
and my belief in what it could do for man. 
^ Photography demands a high degree of participation, but 
never have I participated to such an extent as I did when photo- 
graphing various episodes in the life of Gandhi. 

I shall always remember the day we met. I went to see him 
at his camp, or ashram, in Poona where he was living in the 
midst of a colony of untouchables. Having thought of Mahatma 
Gandhi as a symbol of simplicity, I was a bit surprised to find 
that I had to go through several secretaries to get permission to 
photograph him. When I reached the last and chief secretary, 
an earnest man in horn-rimmed spectacles, and dressed entirely 
in snow-white homespun, I explained my mission. I had come to 
take photographs of the Mahatma spinning. 

"Do you know how to spin?" asked Gandhi's secretary. 

"Oh, I didn't come to spin with the Mahatma. I came to 
photograph the Mahatma spinning." 

"How can you possibly understand the symbolism of Gandhi 
at his spinning wheel? How can you comprehend the inner 
meaning of the wheel, the charka, unless you first master the 
principles of spinning?" He inquired sharply, "Then you are 
not at all familiar with the workings of the spinning wheel?" 

"No. Only with the workings of a camera." 

The secretary fell into rhapsody. "The spinning wheel is a 
marvel of human ingenuity. The charka is machinery reduced to 
the level of the toiling masses. Consider the great machines of 
the factories, with all their complex mechanisms, and consider 
the charka. There are no ball bearings; there is not even a nail. 
The spinning wheel symbolizes what Gandhi calls 'the prole- 
tarianism of science.' " 

It was useless for me to protest that I had a deadline to meet, 
that this very evening a package of film must be at the airport 
to be placed on a certain transoceanic plane that would be met 



274 THE BIRTH OF TWIN NATIONS 

at the airfield in New York, rushed to the Life photo lab, proc- 
essed through the night, and in the morning, a scant forty-eight 
hours after the taking of the photograph, finished prints of the 
Mahatma at his spinning wheel would be lying on the Life 
editor's desk. 

As the secretary became more involved in his oratory, I grew 
desperate. "The charka illustrates a major tenet of Gandhi's. 
When individually considered, man is insignificant, even like a 
drop of water; but in the mass, he becomes mighty and powerful, 
like the ocean." 

"You will make me drop photography and take up spinning," 
I said politely, wondering when we could get back to the ap- 
pointment. 

"That is just what I wish to do," said Gandhi's secretary. 

I know when I'm licked. "How long does it take to learn to 
spin?" I asked wearily. 

"Ah," said the secretary, "that depends upon one's quotient 
of intelligence." 

I found myself begging for a spinning lesson. 

"I must compose editorials for Gandhiji's weekly magazine, 
Harijan" said the secretary. "I have a deadline to meet. Come 
back again next Tuesday." 

Somehow I persuaded Gandhi's secretary that my spinning 
lesson must start this very afternoon. It embarrassed me to see 
how clumsy I was at the spinning wheel, constantly entangling 
myself. It did not help my opinion of my own LQ. to see how 
often and how awkwardly I broke the thread. I began to ap- 
preciate as never before the machine age, with its ball bearings 
and steel parts, and maybe an occasional nail. 

Finally, my instructor decided I could spin well enough to be 
brought into the presence of the Mahatma. There were two in- 
junctions I must faithfully follow. I must not speak to the Ma- 
hatma, as this was Monday, his day of silence. And I must not 
use any form of artificial light, as Gandhi disliked it. I could see 
from the outside that Gandhi's hut was going to be very dark 
indeed (a perfect job for Tri-X and souped-up developers, which 
then we did not have). I pleaded with Gandhi's secretary to 
allow me some lighting equipment, and finally he allotted me 
three peanut flashbulbs. 



THE BIRTH OF TWIN NATIONS 275 

I found the inside of the hut even darker than I had antici- 
pated. A single beam of daylight shone from a little high window 
directly into my lens and into my eyes as well. I could scarcely 
see to compose the picture, but when my eyes became accus- 
tomed to the murky shadows, there sat the Mahatma, cross- 
legged, a spidery figure with long, wiry legs, a bald head and 
spectacles. Could this be the man who was leading his people to 
freedom the little old man in a loincloth who had kindled the 
imagination of the world? I was filled with an emotion as close 
to awe as a photographer can come. 

He sat in complete silence on the floor; the only sound was 
a little rustling from the pile of newspaper clippings he was read- 
ing. And beside him was that spinning wheel I had heard so 
much about. I was grateful that he would not speak to me, for 
I could see it would take all the attention I had to overcome the 
halation from that wretched window just over his head. 

Gandhi pushed his clippings aside, and pulled his spinning 
wheel closer. He started to spin, beautifully, rhythmically and 
with a fine nimble hand. I set off the first of the three flashbulbs. 
It was quite plain from the span of time from the click of the 
shutter to the flash of the bulb that my equipment was not 
synchronizing properly. The heat and moisture of India had 
affected all my equipment; nothing seemed to work. I decided 
to hoard my two remaining flashbulbs, and take a few time ex- 
posures. But this I had to abandon when my tripod "froze" with 
one leg at its minimum and two at their maximum length. 

Before risking the second flashbulb, I checked the apparatus 
with the utmost care. When Gandhi made a most beautiful 
movement as he drew the thread, I pushed the trigger and was 
reassured by the sound that everything had worked properly. 
Then I noticed that I had forgotten to pull the slide. 

I hazarded the third peanut, and it worked. I threw my arms 
around the rebellious equipment and stumbled out into the day- 
light, quite unsold on the machine age. Spinning wheels could 
take priority over cameras any time. 

The secretary was waiting outside, all smiles. I had been in the 
"presence"; I belonged. He asked graciously if I would like to 
see a demonstration of spinning on Gandhi's own personal spin- 
ning wheel the portable one he carried when he traveled 

[OVERLEAF] Mahatma Gandhi, April 1946, 'with his charka, or spmnmg 
Awheel, symbol of India's struggle for independence. 



2jS THE BIRTH OF TWIN NATIONS 

"I would enjoy that very much," I replied. I enjoyed it even 
more than I had anticipated, for, in the middle of the secretary's 
demonstration, the spinning wheel fell to pieces. That made me 
feel better about the machine age. 

This was the first of many occasions on which I photographed 
the Mahatma. Gandhi, who loved a little joke, had his own 
nickname for me. Whenever I appeared on the scene with 
camera and flashbulbs, he would say, "There's the Torturer 
again." But it was said with affection. 

As time went on, I saw this incident of the spinning wheel 
in a different light. Translated into the many situations a photog- 
rapher must meet, the rule set up by Gandhi's secretary was a 
good one: if you want to photograph a man spinning, give some 
thought to why he spins. Understanding, for a photographer, 
is as important as the equipment he uses, I have always believed 
what goes on, unseen, in back of the lens is just as important as 
what goes on in front of it. In the case of Gandhi, the spinning 
wheel was laden with meaning. For millions of Indians, it was 
the symbol of the fight for freedom. Gandhi was a shrewd judge 
of economic pressures as well as spiritual ones. If millions of 
Indians could be persuaded to make the cloth they used them- 
selves, instead of buying manufactured textiles from the British 
colonial power, the boycott would be severely felt in England's 
textile industry. The charka was the key to victory. Nonviolence 
was Gandhi's creed, and the spinning wheel was the perfect 
weapon. 

Gandhi's evening prayer meetings gave him a great pulpit 
from which to comment on any subject, large or small. The 
crowds who came at twilight to hear him ran into thousands, his 
listeners into millions, as his prayer talks were broadcast each 
day. At prayers Gandhi gave the people homey little hints on 
health and diet, advising mothers to give their babies mudpacks 
for whatever ailed them. He instructed villagers that the wooden 
plow was more sacred than the tractor. He denounced the 
machine, saying that it would create a nation of slaves. He some- 
times delivered a special diatribe against textile machinery. 

The anti-machine references made at prayers always disturbed 
me, especially since they were delivered through a modern micro- 
phone. When the talk was finished, Gandhi would step off his 



THE BIRTH OF TWIN NATIONS 



279 




At the ashram, I practiced spinning with Sita, Gmdhijfs granddaughter. 



prayer platform into the milk-white Packard car belonging to the 
richest textile manufacturer in India, Mr. Birk, who bid sup- 
ported Gandhi and his followers for over thirty years. Of course, 
Gandhi took nothing for himself, and the members of his ashram 
lived in austerity. But still I was not satisfied by these incon- 
sistencies. 



280 THE BIRTH OF TWIN NATIONS 

It seemed to me that tractors were just what India needed, 
along with irrigation dams. India's tired, eroded strips of land, 
her dependence on the vagaries of the monsoon for water these 
were desperate land problems that cried out for scientific agri- 
culture. 

Gandhi closed a gulf between the Middle Ages and the twen- 
tieth century. This was a source of his strength. His roots were 
in a simple pre-machine order. He grew up in an era when 
machinery was something that the foreign power possessed and 
developed at the expense of its colonial subjects. The raw mate- 
rials India's people produced were sent out to feed machines on 
the other side of the world. To Gandhi, in his boyhood, the 
machine must have been the enemy. To him, in his seventy-eighth 
year, it was still the enemy. 

Gandhi neither held nor wanted any government office, but 
he was consulted on every important question that came up dar- 
ing the negotiations for independence with the British Cabinet 
Mission. As the interminable freedom negotiations rambled on, 
the steamy weather that precedes the monsoon did not make 
them any easier. The moist heat seemed to collect in great, 
stagnant pools through which politicians, British ministers and 
all living creatures moved, gasping and sluggish. 

Finally the freedom talks were shifted to the purer air of Simla, 
bordering the Himalayas. Moving Gandhi and his ashramites 
was an unforgettable event. Gandhi, believing as he did in the 
simple life, always traveled by third-class train. But third-class 
cars in India are as jammed as New York subway trains during 
the rush hour. A whole group of third-class trains were taken 
over for Gandhi, his followers and his goats. Since he had re- 
nounced cow's milk, it was essential for the goats to go along 
on trips. The goats also traveled third-class. I was reminded of a 
remark made by Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, celebrated Indian poet, who 
said, "If only Gandhiji realized how much it costs to keep him 
in poverty." 

Since I was the only unattached woman accompanying this 
expedition, a small, coffin-shaped compartment was slipped into 
pkce for me. The compartment just ahead of me carried Nehru, 
and the car immediately behind me had Gandhi and his goats. 
This gives me the distinction, Fm sure, of being the only Ameri- 



THE BIRTH OF TWIN NATIONS 281 

can woman ever to have slept between Nehru and Gandhi 
with goats thrown into the bargain. 

The mountain resort proved a delightful place to be. Nehru 
rode to meetings on horseback and we learned stood on his 
head for five minutes every day. The snowy peaks of the Hi- 
malayas made an appropriate background for summitry, but 
after ten days of talk, freedom was still undefined. 

We traveled back to New Delhi and found the capital like the 
inside of a blast furnace. Gandhi, whenever he stepped outside 
his hut, looked like a great mushroom on legs under the huge wet 
Turkish towel he wore heaped and dripping on his head. The 
untouchable colony became a sort of summer White House, 
despite the heat, with Cabinet ministers, maharajahs and digni- 
taries of all sorts pouring through the gates, to consult with 
Gandhi. 

Formal meetings were held at the imposing Viceregal Palace. 
On occasion, Gandhi conferred with Lord Louis Mountbatten, 
the last of the Viceroys. In Mountbatten's veins flows the royal 
blood of Victoria, first Empress of India and symbol of Britain's 
imperial grandeur. Being of royal blood, Lord Mountbatten could 
coerce the Indian princes into surrendering some of their pre- 
rogatives. 

One dignitary was conspicuous by his absence Mohammed 
Ali Jinnah. Jinnah was head of the Muslim League, the Qaid-i- 
Azam. He had a razor-sharp mind and hypnotic, smoldering 
eyes. It would be hard to imagine two men more different than 
Jinnah and Gandhi. They sat at opposite poles at just the time 
that India, moving forward into freedom, needed unity. 

Gandhi stood for a united India for everyone. Jinnah insisted 
on a separate Pakistan for Muslims. Jinnah was a fashion plate, 
while Gandhi wanted nothing more than a strip of homespun 
to wear. Though he was careful to put on Muslim dress for pub- 
lic appearances, the Oxford-educated Jinnah loved European 
clothes, and his suits were London-tailored. Jinnah, though non- 
religious himself, raised religious differences to the heights of 
fanaticism. He inflamed the masses with his fiery words, goading 
them to frenzy. Under it all, he was a spear of ice. 

Jinnah did what very few men in history have been able to do. 
He carved out a new nation single-handed, and put himself at 




Mohammed All Jhmah, founder of Pakistan, which became a nation 
separate front India on August / 5, 



THE BIRTH OF TWIN NATIONS 283 

the head. For years, Hindus and Muslims had struggled side by 
side for independence from the British Raj. With freedom finally 
on the horizon, Jinnah masterminded the game so adroitly that 
within months he was to win his Pakistan. 

Jinnah announced what he called Direct Action Day: "We 
will have," he insisted, "either a divided India or a destroyed 
India." 

On the heels of this announcement, violence broke out in 
Calcutta. I flew there from Bombay and found a scene that looked 
like Buchenwald. The streets were literally strewn with dead 
bodies, an officially estimated six thousand, but I myself saw 
many more. Scattered between bodies of men were the bodies 
of their animals. Countless cows, swollen with the heat, were as 
dead as their masters. 

In Calcutta, a city larger than Detroit, vast areas were dark 
with ruins and black with the wings of vultures that hovered 
impartially over the Hindu and Muslim dead. Like Germany's 
concentration camps, this was the ultimate result of racial and 
religious prejudice. 

I did my job of recording the horror and brought the pictures 
out for Life, but the task was hard to bear. 

The terror in Calcutta set off a chain reaction which spread 
through the country and was equally devastating to both religious 
groups. Months of violence sharpened the division, highlighted 
Jinnah's arguments. On August 15, 1947, one year after the riots 
in Calcutta, a bleeding Pakistan was carved out of the body of a 
bleeding India. 

But other, healthier influences were at work. Despite all her 
difficulties, India was raising herself from the debris of an out- 
worn order and was drawing up a democratic constitution. The 
new laws abolished untouchability and opened schools to un- 
touchables. New laws do not automatically dissolve old inequi- 
ties, but literacy speeds the process. 

This period of transition was an extraordinarily interesting 
time to do a picture essay on the caste system. Life had asked 
for it, and I went ahead with the ardor of an anthropologist, try- 
ing to record something which slowly bet surely would pass 
away. 



284 THE BIRTH OF TWIN NATIONS 

In South India, which has been a stronghold for the caste 
system, I caught a glimpse of the old order. I visited the tanneries 
in Madras to photograph the untouchable families who worked 
in the leather tanneries, following their ancestral occupation. 
These were all the lowest of the untouchables the scavengers 
for no one else would touch the skin of the dead sacred cow. 
A young Madrasi schoolteacher managed to slip me in to see the 
children in the lime pits. At first I could see nothing. Until my 
eyes became accustomed to the smarting fumes, the children 
seemed to be dancing as they bobbed up and down, pressing the 
lime solution into the hides with their feet. 

They were doing this deadly work without the simplest safe- 
guards, such as rubber gloves and rubber aprons. The new con- 
stitution outlawed child labor in "hazardous" occupations, but at 
the time of our visit, the tanneries had escaped being classed as 
hazardous. There was an inspection, of sorts, but when the in- 
spector arrived, he usually went to the office for tea with the 
management, I was told, and if he entered the factory at all, the 
smallest children were hustled out the back door. 

I watched while a group of children piled heaps of skins over 
the pit's edge, climbed hastily out to an iron spigot, rinsed their 
arms and legs and scrambled back to the lime bath again. The 
schoolteacher explained, "Every twenty minutes, they should 
come out of the lime bath to wash in a neutralizing solution, but 
often the pressure is too great to encourage them to take the 
time/' 

"The soles of their feet and the palms of their hands will cor- 
rode from staying in the pits," whispered the schoolteacher. 
Eventually, the concentrated lime would begin to waste away the 
more delicate parts of their bodies. 

The schoolteacher whispered that we must leave now as the 
manager was coming. We went out of sight of the factory, where 
we could catch the workers as soon as the shift changed. It was 
dusk when they came streaming out. At a little distance, the 
workers gathered under a venerable banyan tree, with inter- 
twining roots and twisted branches. 

The people had never seen an American woman before. They 
looked me over with curiosity in their faces. It was growing dark, 
and someone lit a lamp, which lighted up childish eyes grave and 



THE BIRTH OF TWIN NATIONS 285 

wise beyond their years. I thought I had never seen such serious 
children or such serious parents. Then the schoolteacher said, 
"The people want to hear from the American woman. Talk to 
them just a little," he pleaded. "I will translate your words for 
them." 

It was hard for me to find words for people carrying so heavy 
a load. I remember standing there in the lamplight feeling more 
inadequacy before that audience of untouchables than I had ever 
felt before any other group in my life. I plunged in by speaking 
of the great things our two nations had in common. We had 
both yearned for freedom; we had worked for it, and we had 
won it. The mention of freedom is magic to Indians, and as the 
schoolteacher translated, the untouchables broke into cheers. 

Then I spoke of how, even with independence, we Americans 
had found there were many things still to strive for. The status 
of Negroes, for example. Second-class citizenship dies hard. 

I told them I had discovered while I had been in their country 
that Indian parents wanted the same things for their children that 
American families wanted: a healthy standard of living, educa- 
tion, the chance to win a wider horizon. I hoped they would 
get these things and get them soon. 

The meeting was over. The schoolteacher and I walked away 
under a sky alive with stars. The children swarmed off into the 
darkness to crawl into the cramped chawls, as airless as dog 
kennels, which were their homes, to spend a few hours sleeping 
on the ground before climbing back into the lime pits at dawn. 
There would be hope for children like these, with the caste 
system being undermined by the new laws. The coming indus- 
trialization would be another powerful democratic influence. 
People of all sorts would work together and rub elbows. A 
machine cares nothing about a man's ancestors; it does not feel 
polluted by his touch, knows no prejudice. 



z86 



CHAPTER XXV 



THE 

LAST DAYS 
OF GANDHI 



1 WENT BACK home with my pictures and my 
impressions, and as usual after one of these big trips, I started 
writing a book. The work in India had been a most stimulating 
part of my life. It was an inspiration to have such a vast subject 
spread on an enormous canvas and peopled with such extraordi- 
nary personalities. Trying to understand this complex country 
so I could make it clear to others called out everything I had 
to give. 

This book had not followed the course of my other books, 
where things usually got somewhat easier as I went along. I 
wrote half a book. Then, all at once, I saw what the trouble was. 
I just did not know enough to write a book about India, and I 
arranged to send myself back. 

Just before my departure, religious violence in India and 
Pakistan again broke into the news. Independence, apparently, 
wasn't going too smoothly. Life commissioned me to do a story 
on the great exchange of populations and the new nation of 
Pakistan. And, at the last moment, CBS engaged me to do 
some live broadcasts. All this fitted in perfectly with my plans. 
And back I went. 



THE LAST DAYS OF GANDHI 287 

During my absence, the terror had multiplied. The splitting 
of India into two nations, based on religious antagonisms, had 
increased the deadly hatreds and fears. Muslims caught on the 
Indian side of the new borders and Hindus caught on the Pakis- 
tani side were fleeing their ancestral homes in incredible numbers. 
All roads between India and Pakistan were choked with endless 
convoys of peasants and their bullock carts. Women rode on 
donkeys; men walked, often carrying the very young or very 
old on their shoulders. 

There were heartbreaking subjects to photograph. Babies were 
born along the way; people died along the way. Thousands 
perished. I saw children pulling at the hands of their mother, 
unable to understand that those arms would never carry them 
again. There were scenes straight out of the Old Testament. The 
hoofs of countless cattle raised such a column of dust that a pillar 
of a cloud trailed the convoy by day. In the evening, when the 
refugees camped by the tens of thousands along the roadside, the 
light of the campfires rose into the dust-filled air until it seemed 
that a pillar of fire hung over them at night. I borrowed a Bible 
from a British soldier who was assisting me, and reread the Book 
of Exodus. According to Exodus, the Children of Israel num- 
bered eight hundred thousand. Here there were six million people 
on the move while I was traveling with the convoys. And several 
more millions followed these. 

I have always thought that if I could turn back the pages 
of history and photograph one man, my choice would be Moses. 
While I traveled with the migration, my respect for Moses grew, 
for I glimpsed the colossal problems he had to solve. But these 
people had no Moses. 

As though the attacks of religious terrorists were not peril 
enough, the people had to endure the worst flood in forty years. 
Flash floods trapped entire encampments of refugees. I was al- 
most caught myself in the rising of the River Ravi. The soldiers 
accompanying me had found a vacant hut in a reedy area be- 
tween the canal and the river. It seemed like a good place to 
spend the night. I spread my bedroll on the roof. The soldiers 
built a beautiful fire and were heating food. Supper was almost 
ready when a British captain who had seen our jeep turn into the 
canal road hurried in to warn us to leave. We ran off at once, and 

[OVERLEAF] The Great Migration. A massive exchmge of pop&tetkms 
created great suffering 'when India 'was divided into two separate nations. 



290 THE LAST DAYS OF GANDHI 

finally had to wade, waist-deep, pushing our jeep along the 
vanished ridge of roadway between swirling pools, deepening 
swiftly, and treacherously beautiful in the moonlight. 

Week after week I followed the convoys until my cameras 
became clogged with grit, my clothes felt like emery boards and 
my hair was thick and gray with dust. 

I returned to the comparative comforts of Karachi, the capital 
of Pakistan, and requested an appointment to take a new portrait 
of Jinnah for a Life cover. I was told at the door, "The Qaid-i- 
Azam has a bad cold." This, I learned later, was the reply given 
to everyone who called, I did some discreet inquiring and learned 
that a shocking transformation had taken place in Jinnah. His 
Olympian assurance had withered within weeks of his acquiring 
his Promised Land. He had developed a paralyzing inability to 
make even the smallest decision. Along with his dismaying with- 
drawal into himself, Jinnah was not seeing even his Ministers. 
I had struck up a kind of friendship on my last trip with his 
sister, Miss Fatima, and that stood me in good stead now. 

Miss Fatima talked her brother into allowing me to take the 
portrait. There was one curious stipulation. I was not to move 
near to him for a close-up. And when I saw his face, I knew why. 
The change was terrifying. There seemed to be a spiritual numb- 
ness concealing something close to panic underneath. As I went 
ahead with my pictures, his sister slipped up before each photo- 
graph and tried gently to uncurl his desperately clenched hands. 

He came to life only once while I was working. He had chosen 
Muslim dress for this picture, a handsome uniform of dark 
maroon, with a matching maroon fez of fur customarily called 
the "Jinnah hat. n I asked for a lighter one, fearing the dark fur 
would fade into the background. Fatima hurried up with a great 
armload of light-toned Jinnah hats made of the softest unborn 
lamb. The great leader waved his sister and all the fur fezes away 
in irritation. "No, no, no," he repeated like a truculent child. 
This must have been his last portrait. Jinnah died soon after. 

I did a lot of thinking about the tortured look I had seen in 
Jinnah's face. I believe it was an indication that in the final 
months of his life, he was adding up his own balance sheet. 
Analytical and brilliant, he knew what he had done. Like Dr. 
Faustus, he had made a bargain from which he could never be 



THE LAST DAYS OF GANDHI 29! 

free. During the heat of the struggle, he was willing to call on 
all the devilish forces of superstition, and now the bloody victory- 
had turned stale in his mouth. 

If the terrible chain of events numbed Jinnah, in Karachi, 
to inaction, it stirred Gandhi, in Delhi to action of his own non- 
violent kind. He chose a weapon which was peculiarly Asian, 
and had brought him spectacular successes in the past. He 
announced at prayer meeting that he would undertake a fast 
directed against the savageries of religious warfare. 

This would be the sixteenth fast of Gandhi's life. He was now 
seventy-eight. This fast could be his last. The previous fifteen 
had been directed against the British Government, but this fast 
was against the inadequacies of the new all-Indian government, 
which he had done so much to create. Being a Hindu himself, 
Gandhi found it intolerable that other Hindus should be massa- 
cring the Muslim minority. When Hindu refugees began storm- 
ing Muslim mosques in Delhi, throwing out Muslim worshipers 
and moving their own families into these holy places, Gandhi 
felt the moment for action had come. 

With this sixteenth fast, Gandhi was launching the hardest 
battle of his life the battle to conquer inner hatreds. His method 
of nonviolence had led his people to independence. Now he 
was faced with the more difficult task of winning tolerance and 

unity. 

It is difficult for a Westerner to understand the significance 
of a fast. I called on Pandit Nehru, who I was sure could help 
me understand. "Voluntary suffering," said Nehru, "has great 
effect on the Indian mind. Gandhi is a kind of sentinel who stands 
apart. The fast does two things: it introduces a sense of urgency 
to the problem, and forces people to think out of the rut-to think 

afresh." 

Next morning, there was a little ceremony for which Gandhi s 
closest followers gathered. I was within arm's length of the 
Mahatma while he took his last mouthful of boiled beans, his last 
sip of goat's milk, and placed on the cot in front of him his 
famous dollar watch. The hands pointed to n. The fast had 
formally begun. Some of his women followers began to cry. 

Many people came to prayers that night in the garden, and 



292 THE LAST DAYS OF GANDHI 

waited in uneasy silence for Gandhi to speak. He began talking 
very simply about the reasons for the fast how all people de- 
served equal protection and equal freedom of religious worship, 
and emphasized that there must be no retaliation against acts 
of violence. "How long will I fast?" asked Gandhi. "Until I am 
satisfied that people of all religions in India mix like brothers 
and move without fear; otherwise, my fast can never end." 

As he talked, I thought, it is really himself he has on trial. He 
has a religious position of his own to defend his belief in the 
brotherhood of man, which is just as essential to Hinduism as it is 
to Christianity. His whole philosophy of nonviolence is at stake. 
He is pitting all the strength left in his thin, wiry body against 
the spirit of hate consuming his country. One could sense his 
power to call on the people's inner strengths, for he was closer 
to the soul of India than any other man. I believe that everyone 
who went to prayers that night had a feeling that greatness 
hovered over the frail little figure talking so earnestly in the 
deepening twilight. "I am not alone," were his closing words. 
"Because although there is darkness on the way, God is with me." 

During the tense days that followed, the Mahatma became too 
weak to go to prayers in the garden. The people were clamoring 
for a sight of Gandhiji, and one day they were allowed to line 
up by twos and file through the garden at the back of Birla 
House, where Gandhi was staying. The doors of the porch were 
open. Gandhi's cot had been set between them, and on it lay 
the little old man, asleep. 

I find it hard to describe my feelings at seeing this frail little 
figure lying there, with the silent, reverent people filing by. It 
would be impossible to imagine such a thing in America a 
prominent person asleep and yet on exhibition to his public. 
There is an extraordinary amount of personal intimacy in the 
attitude of Indians toward their leaders. I have never seen it in 
any other country. 

From then on, the public began taking a hand in the fast. 
Every hour saw an increase in the processions, in the formation 
of peace brigades, and massing together for open-air meetings. 
On die fifth day of the fast, there was a mammoth meeting at 
Urdu Park, which had packed all the wide meadows stretching 
between the historic Red Fort and the bubble-shaped domes of 



THE LAST DAYS OF GANDHI 293 

the Jamma Mosque. Thousands had gathered on the grounds 
around Birla House when Nehru arrived. Sensing the temper 
of the crowd, he climbed to the top of a cement gatepost by the 
drive to speak. Nehru's eloquence is legendary, and I was glad 
to spot in the crowd an Indian newspaperman friend who could 
translate. "If our goal is good, the path to it should be righteous. 
If we want to be free, we must free each other first. Only a free 
people can lay the foundation to a free land," Nehru was saying. 
"These are the lessons of Gandhiji." 

It was growing darker in the garden, and then something very 
beautiful happened. Hundreds of bicyclists turned their lamps 
on Nehru, and the garden seemed to be flickering with fireflies. 
"It is a sustaining thought," Nehru continued from his gatepost, 
"that there is something great and vital in the soil of our country 
which can produce a Gandhi, a personality of his character, even 
though a Gandhi may be born only after a thousand years." 

It happened I had a dinner engagement with Nehru that eve- 
ning. I hurried back to the hotel to change my clothes and re- 
joined him at his home. I remember my embarrassment at having 
changed to evening dress for what turned out to be a simple 
and very informal dinner. As I rose from the table to leave, 
Nehru got word that Gandhi's physical condition was alarming. 
All through the night, an astonishing range of religious leaders, 
who had never approached agreement before, were working on 
a peace program. 

Early next morning, I went to Birla House and learned from 
Gandhi's happy followers that the Mahatma had received what 
they called a "spate" of telegrams. At exactly eleven o'clock on 
the sixth day, Gandhi broke his fast. It was a moving experience 
to be there and see the people laughing and crying for joy. 
Gandhi lay smiling on his mattress on the floor, clutching some 
peace telegrams in his long, bony hands. I jumped up to a high 
desk and got my camera into action. Gandhi's daughter-in-law 
rushed in with a taU glass of fruit juice, and he kissed her. Then 
Pandit Nehru, who was sitting by his side, made a little ceremony 
of holding Gandhi's glass of orange juice for him. 

Then the women f oUowers flocked in carrying trays of orange 
slices, which Gandhi blessed. This was frasad, food offered to 



294 THE LAST DAYS OF GANDHI 

God. The women passed the fruit platters to the crowd, even 
handing up bits of orange to me, where I stood taking pictures, 
so that the foreigner, too, could share in the gift offered to God. 

Gandhi's fast had aroused great soul-searching among the 
people. For a time, the violence died down. Certainly many prob- 
lems remained unsolved. But Gandhi's heroic risking of his life 
had stirred the entire country, and the people bent their will 
toward peace. 

But there were some exceptions. The militant society of fanati- 
cally orthodox high-caste Hindus known as the Hindu Mahasa- 
bha was vigorously opposed to everything Gandhi stood for. 
Through what they called an "awakening race spirit," they dedi- 
cated themselves to the return to the pure Hinduism of two 
thousand years ago, with its superior privileges exclusively for 
Brahmins. The society had their own youthful storm troopers, 
the R.S.S., Rashtrya Savek Sangh, the National Service Society. 
This reminded me of the youth movement in Germany the 
savage Hitler Jugend. Oddly enough, the R.S.S. also used the 
swastika as their emblem, an ancient symbol which far predated 
Hider. 

Race supremacy theories cannot live with tolerance; therefore, 
a Hindu leader who flouted caste and advocated equality and 
brotherhood had to be destroyed. Several days after the termina- 
tion of Gandhi's fast, a homemade bomb was thrown at him from 
the wall during prayers. Fortunately it fizzled out without hurt- 
ing anyone. Gandhi reacted in a purely Gandhian manner. He 
assured his listeners at prayers that he held no malice against the 
poor, misguided youth who threw the bomb. He hoped the 
young man would realize his error, for it was a wrong done to 
Hinduism and to the country. 

I had reached my last day in India, and on this final day I had 
arranged a special treat for myself an interview with Gandhi 
because although I had photographed him many times, and we 
had exchanged scraps of conversation with one another, I had 
never had a chance to sit down and talk with him quietly. 

I found Gandhi seated on a cot in the garden, with his spinning 
wheel in front of him. He put on a big straw hat when I arrived, 
to keep the sun out of his eyes. It was a hat someone had brought 



THE LAST DAYS OF GANDHI 295 

him from Korea, and he tied it at a gay angle under his chin. 
I told Gandhi that this was my last day, and explained that I was 
writing a book on India, and wanted to have a talk with him 
before I went home. 

"How long have you been working on this book?" 

"It's almost two years now." 

"Two years is too long for an American to work on a book," 
said Gandhiji, laughing. He began to spin, as he always did dur- 
ing interviews. 

My first question seemed a rather silly one at the time; later, 
it seemed almost prophetic. "Gandhiji," I said, "you have always 
stated that you would live to be a hundred and twenty-five years 
old. What gives you that hope?" 

His answer was startling. "I have lost the hope." 

I asked him why. "Because of the terrible happenings in the 
world. I can no longer live in darkness and madness. I cannot 
continue. . . ." He paused, and I waited. Thoughtfully, he 
picked up a strand of cotton, gave it a twist and ran it into 
the spinning wheel. "But if I am needed," he went on in his 
careful English, "rather, I should say, if I am commanded, then 
I shall live to be a hundred and twenty-five years old." 

We went on, then, to speak of other things. I asked him many 
of the questions I had saved up to ask him: how to improve die 
condition of untouchables, particularly children such as I had 
seen in the lime pits; how to bring about land reform; was he 
positively against the use of science and machines in agriculture? 
And machinery in general? He assured me that he was. While 
frequently I did not agree with Gandhi's point of view, talking 
with him helped me understand it. He cared not at all about 
reshaping the structure of society. He cared a great deal about 
reshaping the human heart, and calling out the best in every man. 

I turned to the topic which I had most wanted to discuss with 
Gandhiji. I began speaking of the weight with which our new 
and terrible nuclear knowledge hangs over us, and of our increas- 
ing fear of a war which would destroy the world. Holding in 
our hands the key to the ultimate in violence, we might draw 
some guidance, I hoped, from the apostle of nonviolence. 

As we began to speak of these things, I became aware of a 
change in my attitude toward Gandhi. No longer was this merely 



296 THE LAST DAYS OF GANDHI 

an odd little man in a loincloth, with his quaint ideas about 
bullock-cart culture and his vague social palliatives certain of 
which I rejected. I felt in the presence of a new and greater 
Gandhi. My deepening appreciation of Gandhi began when I 
saw the power and courage with which he led the way in the 
midst of chaos. 

I asked Gandhi whether he believed America should stop 
manufacturing the atom bomb. Unhesitatingly, he replied, "Cer- 
tainly America should stop." Of course, when I had this talk 
with Gandhi, the atom bomb was not yet obsolete, nor had the 
hysteria of nuclear testing swept around the world. Gandhi went 
on to stress the importance of choosing righteous paths, whether 
for a nation or for a single man; for bad means could never bring 
about good ends. He spoke thoughtfully, haltingly, always with 
the most profound sincerity. As we sat there in the thin winter 
sunlight, he spinning, and I jotting down his words, neither of us 
could know that this was to be one of the last perhaps his very 
last messages to the world. 

Since that momentous day, many people have asked me 
whether one knew when in Gandhi's presence that this was an 
extraordinary man. The answer is yes. One knew. And never 
had I felt it more strongly than on this day, when the inconsist- 
encies that had troubled me dropped away, and Gandhi began 
to probe at that dreadful problem which has overwhelmed us all. 

I asked Gandhi] i how he would meet the atom bomb. Would 
he meet it with nonviolence? "Ah," he said. "How shall I answer 
that? I would meet it by prayerful action." 

I asked what form that action would take. 

"I will not go underground. I will not go into shelters. I will 
go out and face the pilot so he will see I have not the face of 
evil against him." 

He turned back to his spinning, and I was tempted to ask, 
"The pilot would see all that at his altitude?" But Gandhi sensed 
my silent question. 

"I know the pilot will not see our faces from his great height, 
but that longing in our hearts that he should not come to harm 
would reach up to him, and his eyes would be opened. Of those 
thousands who were done to death in Hiroshima, if they had 
died with that prayerful action died openly with that prayer in 
their hearts then the war would not have ended as disgracefully 



THE LAST DAYS OF GANDHI 297 

as it has. It is a question now whether the victors are really vic- 
tors or victims ... of our own lust . . . and omission." He was 
speaking very slowly, and his words had become toneless and 
low. "The world is not at peace." His voice had sunk almost to 
a whisper. "It is still more dreadful than before." 

I rose to leave, and folded my hands together in the gesture of 
farewell which Hindus use. But Gandhi ji held out his hand to me 
and shook hands cordially in Western fashion. We said good- 
bye, and I started off. Then something made me turn back. His 
manner had been so friendly. I stopped and looked over my 
shoulder, and said, "Goodbye, and good luck." Only a few hours 
later, on his way to evening prayers, this man who believed that 
even the atom bomb should be met with nonviolence was struck 
down by revolver bullets. 

I was only a few blocks away when the assassin's bullet was 
fired. News travels with lightning swiftness in India, and in a 
few minutes, I was back at Birla House. Thousands of people 
were already pressing toward the scene of the tragedy. The 
crush was so great, I could hardly reach the door, but the guards 
recognized me and helped me through. In the next moment, I 
was in the room where Gandhi, dead less than an hour, lay on a 
mattress in a corner on the floor. His head was cradled lovingly 
in the lap of his secretary; the devoted little grandnieces and 
daughters-in-law who had always surrounded him in life clus- 
tered around him now as he lay in his last sleep. 

I remembered the joyful moment when he had broken his fast 
only ten days earlier in this very room. I had stood in this very 
spot and watched him smile up from this same mattress. Then 
everyone had been laughing for joy. Now they were silent and 
stunned. Few people even wept. The only sound was the end- 
less chanting of the Gita by the women followers who sat along 
the edge of the mattress and swayed to the rhythmic recitations 
of the "Song of God," always sung at the death of a Hindu. The 
women kneeling along the mattress were beating their hands 
softly to the rhythm of the prayer. 

Suddenly into the numbness of that grief-filled room came 
the incongruous tinkle of broken glass. The glass doors and 
windows were giving way from the pressure of the crowds out- 
side, straining wildly for one last look at their Mahatrna, even in 
death. No one expected Mahatmaji would die, even during the 



298 THE LAST DAYS OF GANDHI 

fast and when the homemade bomb was exploded during prayers. 
And now that death had come, the sense of personal loss was 
almost beyond endurance. 

I pressed my way through the grief-stricken crowd to the 
garden path where Gandhiji had met his end. The place was 
marked off with a humble little line of sticks, and a large and 
very ordinary tin can about the size of a large jam tin had been 
put down to indicate the exact spot where he fell. Already a 
radiance hung over the spot. Someone had marked the place with 
a candle. And kneeling around it were men and women of all 
religions, just as Gandhiji would have had it. United in deepest 
sorrow, they were reverently scooping up into their handker- 
chiefs small handfuls of the blood-stained earth to carry away 
and preserve. 

I was swept by the crowd back to the gates, and there I found 
Nehru speaking. Once more, he had climbed up on the gatepost 
of Birla House to address the people. "The great light is extin- 
guished," he said. "Mahatmaji is gone, and darkness surrounds us 
all. I have no doubt he will continue to guide us from the borders 
of the Great Beyond, but we shall never be able to get that solace 
which we got by running to him for advice on every difficulty." 

At this point, Nehru broke down and wept openly on his 
gatepost, and the crowd wept with him. Then he made a supreme 
effort to speak a final sentence. "We can best serve the spirit of 
Gandhiji by dedicating ourselves to the ideals for which he lived, 
and the cause for which he died." 

All through that terrible night, people gathered in hushed 
groups in the streets. In the morning, I would have pictures to 
take, and broadcasts to think of. But this night, I gave myself 
over to walking the streets, sharing the shock and sorrow of the 
crowds. Within hours, the police had captured the assassin, 
Nathuram Vinayak Godse, a fanatical Brahmin, editor of a Hindu 
Mahasabha weekly in Poona. Later he would be given the death 
penalty. But to those masses of. bereaved people, it was not 
merely one misguided individual who had murdered their Gan- 
dhiji, but an impersonal force that had dealt out death. 

In this, they were very right. It was no accident that Gandhi 
was done away with by a fellow Hindu-one of those who stood 
for all that was worst and most rabid in the religion, just as 
Gandhi stood for all that was broadest and best. 



THE LAST DAYS OF GANDHI 299 

By dawn, the lawn and gardens of Birla House and all streets 
leading into it were flooded with people. By the thousands they 
swirled through the Birla gates until they crushed in an indivisi- 
ble mass against the house. And still they came, beating against 
the walls of the house in surging waves of mourning humanity. 
I doubt if there has ever been a scene like it. Certainly there has 
been none in my experience. The house, with its concrete ter- 
races, was like a rocky island, holding its precious burden high 
above the sea of grief. Laid out on the roof of the terrace was 
the figure of Gandhi, tranquil and serene. 

The morning sunlight lent a special radiance to the coarsely 
woven homespun which draped his body. He was carried down, 
placed on a flower-laden bier and covered with the yellow, white 
and green flag of the new free India. Then, that greatest of all 
processions began to move toward the sacred burning ground on 
the bank of the River Jumna. The human stream gathered to it- 
self all the tributaries of the countryside. It grew and grew until 
it was a mighty river miles long, and a mile wide, draining 
toward the shore of the sacred river. People covered the entire 
visible landscape until it seemed as if the broad meadows them- 
selves were rippling away until they reached the sacred banks. 
I never before had photographed or even imagined such an 
ocean of human beings. 

Somehow I managed to get to the center of the dense, mourn- 
ing throng, where the funeral pyre of sandalwood logs had been 
lighted. Occasionally I could catch a glimpse of the three Hindu 
priests kindling the fire and scattering perfumed chips on the 
blaze. Then a glimpse of Nehru's haggard face as he stood by 
the edge of the bier. Twilight was coming. The flames were ris- 
ing high into the sky. All through the night, the people would 
watch until the flames burned down to embers. 

The curtain was falling on the tragic last act. The drama I 
had come to India to record had run its course. I had shared 
some of India's greatest moments. Nothing in all niy life has af- 
fected me more deeply, and the memory will never leave me. 
I had seen men die on the battlefield for what they believed in, 
but I had never seen anything like this: one Chrisdike man giv- 
ing his life to bring unity to his people. 



300 



CHAPTER XXVI 



ON A ROCKY 

CONNECTICUT 

HILL 



lloME ONCE MORE, and the book raced to a 
finish. I called it Half 'way to Freedom. 

Writing was becoming increasingly important to me as a way 
of sorting out my ideas. Writing is a stern, though rewarding, 
taskmaster, as I had found out in the case of this Indian book. The 
effort to understand India, with her centuries telescoped into a 
handful of years, had a very deep effect on me. It was as though 
this young-old country helped me climb to a higher level of un- 
derstanding. 

As photographers, we live through things so swiftly. All our 
experience and training is focused toward snatching off the high- 
lightsand necessarily so. That all-significant perfect moment, 
so essential to capture, is often highly perishable. There may be 
little opportunity to probe deeper. Writing a book is my way of 
digesting my experiences. 

There was a deeper personal reason for writing books. I wanted 
to have a rhythm in my life: the high adventure with all the ex- 
citement, the difficulties, the pressures balanced with a period 
of tranquility in which to absorb what I had seen and felt. 

My house on a rocky Connecticut hill, which my lectures had 



ON A ROCKY CONNECTICUT HILL 301 

helped me buy, means a great deal to me as a home base. I had 
been making payments on it, and whenever I could afford to do 
so, I added a slice of woodland. One Saturday morning I received 
from my bank an envelope bulging with important-looking 
papers. Oh, I thought, it looks as though I owe somebody a lot of 
money. Unfortunately, it was Labor Day weekend, and I had 
to wait until Tuesday before I could reach anyone at the bank. 
When at last Tuesday morning came, I phoned a vice-president 
and told him of my alarm. He laughed and said, "Oh, youVe just 
paid off the mortgage, that's all." 

This house, isolated by surrounding woods, is the best place 
I know for writing and for restoration of the spirit. Solitude is 
a precious commodity when a book is being written. I am a 
morning writer. The world is all fresh and new then, and made 
for the imagination. I keep an odd schedule that would be pos- 
sible only for someone with no family demands to bed at eight, 
up at four. I love to write out of doors and sleep out of doors, 
too. In a strange way, if I sleep under open sky, it becomes part 
of the writing experience, part of my insulation from the world. 

I had a big rubber coverlet which protected me in case of light 
rains, but, of course, a big storm would drive me inside. While 
I was working on the Indian book, we had an extraordinarily 
clear and mild autumn, which lasted until December u, when 
I was awakened by a furious blizzard. I threw my arms around 
my bedding and rushed indoors, and outdoor slumbers were 
halted for that season. As soon as spring was in the air, I was 
out sleeping under the stars again. 

I had no ordinary bed. A bedroll was all right for a war, or 
for traveling in a primitive country, but I was in my own home 
now. There must be some elegance about the sleeping arrange- 
ments. I used a piece of garden furniture on wheels, with a 
little fringed half -canopy on top. It was wide and luxurious, and 
when it was made up with light quilts and a candle on each side, 
and reflected in the swimming pool, it was a child's dream of a 
bed made for a princess. 

Every night I rolled it to a different spot, so I could frame my 
view of the night sky with the silhouettes of various tall trees. 
I would blow out the candles and watch the soaring, greenish 
lamps of fireflies. From the pool I could hear a chorus of seven 



302 ON A ROCKY CONNECTICUT HILL 

frogs whose voices I knew. Then I would drowse off. The end- 
less drama of the heavens passed over me while I slept. I would 
wake up for a small second and the stars had moved; again to 
sleep, and awake to find the moon had risen. The next blink of 
the eyes to discover that the grass and bushes were drowning in 
mist. At the first hint of dawn, my cat, who had spent the night 
guarding my bed, as though realizing the perils of darkness were 
past, would jump up besid* me to a little pillow of his own, and 
together we would enjoy those last delicious moments of sleep. 

While still in the hush before daylight, I would start my 
writing, and by the time the sun rose, I was sealed in my own 
planet and safe from the distractions of the day. 

A book, while it is being written, has an intense life of its own 
which you share. It leads you along unexpected paths. Charac- 
ters take their own course. Give them a quiet chance, and they 
seem to come alive and talk. You remember what they said in 
real life when you encountered them, and perhaps for the first 
time you get the full significance of their words. But it is hard 
to reinvoke the people you are writing about when they are 
drowned out by background noises. 

I'm afraid my closely guarded solitude causes some hurt feel- 
ings now and then. But how to explain, without wounding 
someone, that you want to be wholly in the world you are 
writing about, that it would take two days to get the visitor's 
voice out of the house so that you could listen to your own 
characters again? I particularly remember one unhappy occa- 
sion when a man for whom I had considerable affection flew 
halfway around the globe to spend the midwinter holidays in 
this part of the world. I was just at that part of the chapter where 
you hold all the strings in your hands and you're afraid you will 
drop them if you don't tie them right down. And I would not 
see him until the day after Christmas. After all these years, it is 
on my conscience still; I hope he will forgive me. 

Once the job of writing is done, my attitude takes a complete 
rightabout turn. I love to have guests; the house is seldom with- 
out one. Life's gifted photographer, Alfred Eisenstaedt, was a 
hostess's dream. Eisie brought everything: wine, a choice steak, 
marinated herring, his favorite phonograph records lots of 
them, from jazz, which he adores, to opera he could not live 




With Captain Edward A. Steichen, "Dem" of American photog- 
raphers. [BOB HENRTQUES, MAGNUM 1 

without-a box of chocolates for the maid. Once he even re- 
membered the birds, and brought a bird's feeding station, which 
he hung on the branch of a tree. 

Another dream guest was also a photographer: Life's Eliot 
Elisof on, who is not only one of the greatest color photographers 
in the world, but one of the world's greatest cooks. Once, on a 
visit, we had planned to have shashlik, and I had no flaming 
swords to cook it on. After calling me a "kitchen cripple"-his 
label for people with poorly equipped kitchens Eliot searched 
the garage and came back with a pitchfork. He scraped and 
scrubbed the rust carefully off the tines and speared the in- 
gredients: cubes of lamb and beef, onion sections, shreds of liver, 
mushrooms, tiny tomatoes. The three-tined pitchfork had a sug- 
gestion of Gothic about it, and dripping with all those delec- 



304 ON A ROCKY CONNECTICUT HILL 

table ingredients, it looked like a piece of Giacometti's attenuated 
sculpture. We roasted the shashlik in front of the open fireplace, 
and it was perfection. Then Eliot carefully scrubbed the pitch- 
fork and replaced it in the garage. But next time I came to New 
York, he led me on a city-wide shopping trip so that I never 
again would be a "kitchen cripple." 

It would seem that those who lean toward photography also 
lean toward good food. Beaumont Newhall, the curator of the 
George Eastman House in Rochester and prolific author of 
books and articles on the history of photography, brings to his 
cooking a kind of mystery. His secret is stock. The process is a 
little like putting negatives into the developer. Almost anything 
can come out. We spent many days at my home going through 
some two thousand of my pictures, retrieving some from old 
magazines and scraps in the attic, to make a major exhibition of 
four hundred photographs. During the entire monumental task, 
a kettle of soup stock simmered on the back of the stove. At in- 
tervals, Beaumont would add various liquids to make up just the 
precise amount that had boiled away. And when it was at its 
pungent best and combined with beef or chicken or fish and set 
on the table, who could tell where the subtle flavors and aromas 
came from? 

At one of our suppers, I carried highest honors for a salad I 
had made, using twenty-seven cliff erent salad greenseverything 
from long, canoe-shaped Chinese cabbage, through various spear 
shapes and crinkled forms, down to tiny cloverlike leaves of 
delicate fresh chevril. It was a photographer's salad, composed 
of large and small objects for contrast and depth, and the long 
green scale for gradation of tone. This mainly was a triumph of 
marketing. To get the range, I had canvassed greengrocers for 
miles around. 

Alexander Schneider, violinist and great performer of Bach, 
taught me that trick of mixing several different lettuces, leaving 
the leaves whole and ranging from the neutral to the sharp and 
sour. But I doubt if he ever reached a high of twenty-seven! 

Sascha or Abrasha, which is his real name came out often to 
cook or be cooked for, and he always brought his exquisite Strad- 
ivarius and put in hours of practice each day. He was working 
on the unaccompanied Bach suites, which required prodigious 



ON A ROCKY CONNECTICUT HILL 



305 




With Alexander Schneider, noted violinist and magnificent cook. 



306 ON A ROCKY CONNECTICUT HILL 

feats of concentration. I loved to hear him practicing away in 
my living room. It seemed as though the notes clung to the walls 
after he stopped playing. 

There was one day, I recall, when he appeared not to be con- 
centrating as well as usual. He seemed to have slipped weirdly 
off pitch. Pm no musician, but to my untutored ear it sounded 
peculiar like a phonograph record running down. I tiptoed into 
the room, and there was Sascha, strangely bent over. My first 
thought was "He is sick!" He was leaning over the TV set, 
routinely moving his bow, his eyes glued on every move of the 
ballplayers in the World Series. 

Sascha's was one of the deep friendships. When I would say 
apologetically, "I don't know anything about music," he would 
reply, "The feeling I have for you has nothing to do with music. 
I only hope it will be reflected in my music." I had the same 
wish: that what I learned from him and it was impossible not 
to learn from a dedicated, outgiving man like this would be re- 
flected in my pictures. 

I consider myself fortunate to have my beloved house, long 
and low and just the right size for me, where I can write and rest 
and be with people I care about. Ed Murrow, who always 
worked under considerable tension, once said to me, "To be 
able to take advantage of a complete relaxation when you have a 
little free time in the midst of pressures is the mark of an inte- 
grated personality." This is a point of view I accept. 

People sometimes ask me, "When you have such a lovely 
home, how can you bear to go off on these long trips and leave 
it?" But I don't think of it that way at all. This house is like a 
dear friend who you know loves you. It will be waiting when 
I come back again. It is so much fun bringing presents from all 
over the world to the house: wallpaper and pottery plates from 
Japan; brass soup bowls from Korea; copper and silver inlaid 
trays from the princely state of Jaipur; impala skins from the 
South African jungle to cover a pair of chairs; peasant-embroi- 
dered linen from the Carpatho-Ukraine to set the table. 

The table itself is a local product. It is a slab of heavy clear 
glass which stands on two big pieces of tree trunk. The tree 
stumps were Sascha's happy idea. At a Norwalk sawmill we 
found two black walnut trees on the ground, waiting to be cut 



ON A ROCKY CONNECTICUT HILL 307 

up, and the proprietor obligingly sliced out exactly those sec- 
tions of trunk where the trees forked. This gave us a beautiful 
double pattern of concentric circles. We left the Stumps unfin- 
ished, and they become more beautiful as they gray with age. 

For the living room, I designed a photomural of trees. It is 
enlarged from photographs I took in the Bohemian Forest. Just 
before the outbreak of World War II, I was covering the Czech- 
oslovakian crisis for Life and I drove through this magnificent 
forest. The boys in Life's darkroom helped me scale the pictures 
to precisely fit the wall spaces and give a continuous pattern. So 
it is trees, inside and out. 

There is a big rock on my place almost a cliff which I shall 
always associate with the late Bob Capa, world-famous combat 
photographer who came out for a weekend between wars. The 
chill of autumn had set in, but, Capa had discovered a warm streak 
of rock in my cliff that for some mysterious reason held the heat 
from the weak sunlight. We sat contentedly sipping bourbon 
old-fashioneds, quite comfortable on what Capa called my 
"steam-heated" rock. Not long after, Capa took off for Indo- 
China, where he was killed by a land mine the first Life pho- 
tographer to die in action. 

My "steam-heated" rock is a good place from which to watch 
the advance of spring. Yellow daffodils give way to pale narcis- 
sus, which in turn bows out to azaleas in delirious colors. Just 
as I begin to mourn their passing, out comes the mountain laurel, 
venerable bushes, big as cumulus clouds. 

But all these dwindle beside the dogwood trees which have 
packed themselves into my little wood in incredible numbers. 
They grow like weeds: tall trees surrounded by infants like a 
hen and chicks. It all is so breathtaking, so short-lived, that the 
enjoyment of it is almost pain. I want to go out and hold the 
flowering back with my hands, pin the blossoms on so they will 
stay. 

I am not a formal gardener, any more than I am a formal cook. 
My idea of gardening is to discover something wild in my woods 
and weed around it with the utmost care until it has a chance to 
grow and spread. It delights me to see wild flowers which subur- 
ban growth has nearly swept from the landscape come up in my 
wood, year after year. Wild columbine reappears through cracks 



308 ON A ROCKY CONNECTICUT HILL 

in the rocks, maidenhair fern, jack-in-the-pulpit return to heav- 
ily shaded crevices. Then the wood vines appear from nowhere 
and creep up every tree trunk and cover every rock. By mid- 
summer, the giant kudzu vine with its enormous leaves and swift- 
growing tendrils takes over the trees to their very tops and 
turns the whole place into a jungle. But by that time, I'm usually 
off to another turbulent assignment. 

I think with every major photographic story there has been 
some man who, in his way, opened up his world for me and 
somehow stands for it in my mind. A man of stature from whom 
I could absorb a great deal. Perhaps it would be someone in the 
news-gathering field a writer concerned with history in the 
making who made wise suggestions, and whose findings, so gen- 
erously shared, illuminated the whole situation for me. Some of 
these are extraordinary men with an astuteness and courage all 
their own. The lasting quality of some of these friendships has 
been a source of great happiness to me. Long after the job which 
brought us together is over, we are bound by deep ties of affec- 
tion. A happy twist of circumstances brings us together, and time 
raises no barriers. The intervening years fall away, and we pick 
up the friendship where we left off. 

Some of these men have meant more to me than either of my 
husbands. Perhaps fliers have meant the most, particularly cer- 
tain of the seasoned ones whose early work meant pioneering in 
one way or another, and called for great daring and imagination. 
With men like this there was always a quick understanding, and 
if the work meant danger shared, that was always a bond. My 
most treasured memory of the war is the words of a superb fly- 
ing officer. I had been planning to take a flight in which there 
were some elements of risk. Just before the takeoff, he said, "I'm 
going to fly you myself, because if you die, I want to die, too." 
Nobody died, but I shall always carry that short sentence like 
an invisible star. 

Mine is a life into which marriage doesn't fit very well. If I 
had had children, I would have charted a widely different life, 
drawn creative inspiration from them, and shaped my work to 
them. Perhaps I would have worked on children's books, rather 
than going to wars. It must be a fascinating thing to watch a 
growing child absorb his expanding world. One life is not better 
than the other; it is just a different life. 




At home by the 'pool. [PHOTOGRAPH BY EDMUND j. DORAN] 

I have always been glad I cast the die on the side I did. But a 
woman who lives a roving life must be able to stand alone. She 
must have emotional security, which is more important even than 
financial security. There is a richness in a life where you stand 
on your own feet, although it imposes a certain creed. There 
must be no demands. Others have the right to be as free as you 
are. You must be able to take disappointments gallantly. You set 
your own ground rules, and if you follow them, there are great 
rewards. 

In spite of all this philosophy of independence, I have more 
than once come very close to a third marriage. I'm certain I 
would have married Jerry if he had outlived World War II. I 
don't know how I could have refused to marry a man like that 
so fair in his judgments, so well-adjusted that he met the diffi- 
culties of life with humor. One soon forgot his ugly face for his 
kind eyes. He was secure enough within himself that I could be 
sure he would never raise emotional obstacles if I was going off 
on a job. He would care a great deal whether I worked happily 
and undistracted. 

At thirty-six Jerry was a college professor of abnormal psy- 
chology. He was greatly engrossed in the subject of rehabilitat- 
ing criminals, especially young ones, and he had acted as con- 
sultant in various parts of the United States on the problem of 
juvenile crime. During the war, he was an American Army major 



310 ON A ROCKY CONNECTICUT HILL 

at the head of one of those hush-hush units which were con- 
nected with Army Intelligence. He was ingenious and brave, 
and he commanded great loyalty from his men. We got to know 
one another on my first assignment to the war in Italy. When I 
returned for a second Italian assignment, we hoped to see more of 
each other. 

I was met at Naples harbor by one of Jerry's closest friends. 
Jerry had been transferred to another European sector. He had 
been leading missions of a highly confidential character. On the 
last of these sorties only five days before, while I was still on 
the ocean Jerry was captured by the Germans. He was 
wounded but alive when captured; that much the friend knew. 
I was numb with worry lest the enemy should know this was no 
ordinary prisoner. Having been in Intelligence, there was al- 
ways the strong possibility that he would be tortured in the 
effort to get all the information he had. Through a most devious 
route, I got a little news: Jerry was in a hospital for prisoners of 
war. He had been interrogated at some length, but with his 
quicksilver mind, he had succeeded in totally confusing his ques- 
tioners. Jerry was a past master at this kind of game of chess. 
About the torture, I would never be sure, but I was proud of him 
for outwitting his inquisitors. 

I learned that the Vatican had an enormous department that 
endeavored to trace prisoners of war on either side of the con- 
flict, and would undertake to deliver messages for loved ones by 
radio or other means. The message must be short, ten words at 
the most, and they would try. I needed only seven words: / love 
you. I <will marry you. I signed it simply, MAGGIE. It went off, 
like a little bird in space. I shall never know whether it was re- 
ceived, but it eased my heart to be able to send it. 

There was just one more scrap of news which filtered through 
the lines. The enemy town where Jerry was being held prisoner 
was raided. One bomb sheared the hospital in half. Jerry was 
in the side that was wrecked. He must have died instantly. 

This was not quite the last of poor Jerry. For some time I 
continued to receive mail from him. Also, the letters I had written 
to him before his capture kept coming back marked "Return to 
sender" by the U.S. Army Post Office. Jerry had written me 
every day, sometimes several times a day. For weeks to come 
those sad little squares of V-mail followed me about. 



CHAPTER XXVII 

LAND OF 
DARKNESS 
AND 
DIAMONDS 



1 HERE is a kind of magic about South Africa. 
I had always longed to go there, and in 1950, Life sent me to the 
Union of South Africa to do a photo essay on its problems and 
its people. I had always wondered what the veld looked like. I 
have seen the steppes in Russia, the Hortobdgy in Hungary, 
and the prairies in our own central United States. The veld has 
a little of all three, but it has a special enchantment all its own. 

The land is spacious, under an enormous sky. Around the en- 
tire ring of the horizon is a perpetual drama which you watch 
as though you were following the action on a revolving stage. 
Clouds build up to noble proportions. Hail falls. Stabs of light- 
ning give way to rainbows. Squalls dissolve. The softest golden 
sunlight follows each storm. 

When you drive around the Rand, where one gold mine fol- 
lows another, the modern buildings of Johannesburg rise from 
the strangest landscape in the world. The road to the metropolis 
passes through a chain of man-made mountains, cone-shaped and 
in startling colors: warm shades of ocher to orange; cold shades 

[OVERLEAF] The modern city of Johannesburg sits deep amid hills of 
refuse from the gold mines. 



3 14 LAND OF DARKNESS AND DIAMONDS 

of bilious yellow, off -whites and sickly tan. In the soft center 
of each cone is a crater of sludge. This is mine waste, and the 
core is treacherous as quicksand. From time to time, children 
playing unwisely close to the slimy rim are sucked in to a ter- 
rible death. 

Glimpsed above these strange hills, the skyline of Johannes- 
burg shimmers in the noonday sun like a mirage in the desert. 
Many times in the weeks to come, I thought of the country as 
a mirage; things are not what they seem. 

By night, noisy groups roam the corridors of Johannesburg's 
expensive hotels much like Grand Rapids or Detroit at con- 
ventiontime; by day, the costly restaurants are filled with broad- 
beamed women in disproportionately tiny flowered hats the 
type of women known in Afrikaner circles as ' Hollandse 
meubektuk (a piece of Dutch furniture). 

The entire economy of South Africa is geared to gold. Johan- 
nesburg is literally built on gold. Under this modern city, under 
its splendid department stores, tall office buildings, its sturdy 
Dutch Reformed churches, the gold mines plunge directly down 
to the awesome depth of two miles. 

I got my first glimpse of one of the oldest gold mines, Robin- 
son Deep, on a Sunday. I had driven to the entrance, not ex- 
pecting any activity on the Sabbath but just to get the feeling of 
the place. I was delighted when I found some very photogenic 
activity. In the mine compound, the miners were putting on a 
weekly show of their tribal dances. 

I was struck by two of the native dancers who moved with 
such lively grace that I decided I must use them in further pic- 
tures. I am always looking for some typical person or face that 
will tie the picture essay together in a human way. I asked their 
names, I learned that black miners aren't known by their names; 
a miner is a "unit," with his number tattooed on his forearm. 

Next morning, I explained to the superintendent that the two 
gold miners, Nos. 1139 and 5122, had impressed me so much that 
I would like to carry through with the pair, photographing them 
where they worked, where they ate, lived, slept. The superin- 
tendent told me the men were working very deep down in a 
"remnant area," where visitors were never taken. 

"What is a remnant area?" I asked. The superintendent ex- 



LAND OF DARKNESS AND DIAMONDS 315 

plained that it is a spot so honeycombed with old workings that 
cave-ins are a constant hazard, and with so little gold left that 
it has been abandoned. However, recent revaluation of gold had 
made it profitable for the company to send men back for 
scrapings. 

The officials said, "We will move them up to a more con- 
venient location, where you can take your pictures more easily." 
I said, "Lz'f e magazine doesn't do things that way; either I photo- 
graph them where they really work, or we'll forget the whole 
thing." They consented. 

I was told to return the next day and put on proper mine 
clothes. I was astonished to find that these were heavy and warm, 
as if I were dressing for the frigid top of the world rather than 
for the hot depths of the earth. The superintendent explained to 
me that unless the body is thoroughly conditioned to the abrupt 
temperature changes under the earth's crust, a visitor might go 
through the heat of the lower depths, get wringing wet and 
catch pneumonia on the slow return to normal temperatures 
aboveground. My costume was topped with a crash helmet, and 
I wore a whistle hanging round my neck to use if we were 
trapped. 

To me it was a solemn moment when I stepped into the mine 
cage and started the slow two-mile descent into the hidden space 
of the world. I felt something of the excitement of my first 
snorkeling in tropical waters: my first look into a new world. 
With snorkeling, all was sparkling and bright; here it was all 
gloom and obscurity. As the elevator lumbered downward, the 
darkness was broken only by occasional eerie cracks of light as 
we passed the mine stages. 

At the bottom of the first mile, which is the halfway point in 
this vertical journey, you change to a smaller mine car which 
shoots down an incline. You travel that second downward mile 
in the sober realization that you are now below sea level. 

When I stepped out, I felt no discomfort, for the air circula- 
tion system close to the elevator shafts was adequate. As soon as 
we started walking along the lateral passages, the atmosphere 
became very hot and humid. When we reached the little sloping 
pocket where the two men were working, I could hardly rec- 
ognize my dancers. With rivers of sweat pouring down their 



3 l6 LAND OF DARKNESS AND DIAMONDS 

bare chests, and with sad eyes and perspiration-beaded faces, they 
hacked away. I was in the midst of making photographs when a 
strange depression and lassitude overcame me. I could hardly 
raise my hands; I had lost the power of speech. 

The superintendent, noticing my distress, led me quickly to a 
more open mine-passage, gave me a little water, directed me to 
wash out my mouth, but not swallow it; then he took me to the 
foot of the shaft, where I was revived by the better air. Later I 
learned a man had died from heat prostration two months pre- 
viously on this mine face. 

I left the mine realizing that I had spent only four hours under- 
ground, and I would not have to return if my pictures were all 
right. But these men, who had danced so gaily and happily in 
the upper air, were destined to spend the better part of their 
waking hours underground with no hope of escaping the endless 
routine. 

Although he works an eight-hour day, a miner is often under- 
ground as many as eleven hours. The white-skinned foremen 
must come up first, before the elevators take up the blacks. On 
each landing stage, as I made the ascent, I saw the black gold- 
miners clustered in large groups, awaiting their release to the 
outside air and the open sky. They would see little of this sky. 
They would sleep in concrete barracks without windows, rolled 
up like sausages on the floor, forty to a room, crowded into com- 
pounds surrounded with barbed wire. At night, they were locked 
m. Over their windowless bunkers arched the jeweled night sky 
inlaid with the glorious Southern Cross and other celestial dia- 
monds not mined in South Africa. 

In a country where 8,500,000 blacks are, in effect, ruled by 
fewer than 2,500,000 whites who own nine-tenths of the land 
and all the mines, an efficient pass system is used to recruit cheap 
labor on a titanic scale. The finest reasons are given for the pass 
laws: to protect the ignorant native" . . . "to prevent crime " 
1 he native African must carry four to eight passes on his person 
at all times. He needs a traveling pass to move from one area to 
another a permit to seek work, an employment certificate when 
he has found work, a tax receipt, and a "special" pass to be out 
after cfcrk. Only the man with a white skin can come and go as 
lie wishes. 5 




Gold miners 'working two wiles straight down in the mines under 
Johannesburg. 



3 1 8 LAND OF DARKNESS AND DIAMONDS 

The coming of white civilization to South Africa was out- 
standingly successful in channeling the black man into the service 
of the white, but it does little to fill the vacuum created by the 
disintegration of tribal civilization. The villages are sucked dry 
of able-bodied men, family life disintegrates, and the land erodes. 
The men are recruited to work eighteen months in the mines; 
then they are given six months off to go home and till the soil 
and presumably breed more miners. A man's tribal homeland 
may be so remote that when he reaches his village, it is time to go 
back to the gold mines on a renewed contract. 

Of course, the legal niceties are observed. The contract is read 
aloud to the mine recruits. No one can deny that the men heard 
the contract, saw it, and even touched it long enough to leave 
a thumbprint. And if a man wanted to do something else with 
his life, what could he do? His bondage begins at the age of 
eighteen, when he is old enough to pay taxes. He cannot pay in 
cows or in grain which measure his wealth in an agricultural 
society but must pay in the white man's currency, which he has 
to work in the mines to earn. Without the all-important tax re- 
ceipt, he cannot get passes, and without passes, he cannot travel, 
work, exist. The tax receipt is just the first link in the paper 
chains which will bind him all the days of his life. 

From the venerable gold mines of Johannesburg I went to the 
Orange Free State, where the big mining companies were pros- 
pecting for new gold. Borings had been made to a depth of sev- 
eral thousand feet. 

The mining company which led the gold rush was just sink- 
ing its first shaft and had reached 2,000 feet. There wasn't much 
to see aboveground, and as for seeing anything belowground, no 
regular elevator machinery had been installed yet. The only way 
to go was the way the tools and men went: in a bucket. 

And so, within the week, I found myself in an oversized 
bucket-large enough to hold the foreman and two helpers, all 
of us dressed in white oilskins and white helmets. My cameras 
were wrapped in a raincoat. The system worked from a pulley, 
like buckets in a well. As one went down the 2,ooo-foot drop 
with a load of tools and miners, the other came up with sludge. 

We had reached the halfway point when we heard a loud rat- 
tling sound coming up out of the darkness, like a train rushing 



LAND OF DARKNESS AND DIAMONDS 




Recruits for the gold mines, 'who have not been taught to read and 
write, sign their 'work contracts with thumbprints. 



toward us. With a deafening clatter, it scuttled past us and up 
and quickly died away. It was the other bucket going up with 
its load of sludge, "Do they ever break loose?" I asked the fore- 
man. Several weeks ago one had. It was carrying only tools, no 
men, but it hurtled down, killing seventeen men on the floor of 
the shaft. "It must go off like a gun," one of the men said. The 
foreman said, "Yes." And then speech was suddenly made 
impossible. 



320 LAND OF DARKNESS AND DIAMONDS 

We were entering the region of the underground rains. There 
never was such a rain above the surface of the earth. We were 
swirled around as though we were in a giant champagne glass, 
or in the heart of a tropical storm. Water came from everywhere 
at once and bit and tore at us. The foreman was looking cau- 
tiously over his side of the bucket now. I ventured a look over 
mine. Far below was a disk of light the size of a dime. It grew to 
the size of a quarter, a silver dollar. It seemed to rush up toward 
us as though threatening to engulf us, and I realized that this was 
the bottom of the shaft our destination rising up to meet us. 
The curious loss of perspective when there is no frame of refer- 
ence is something I had experienced in planes at high altitudes, 
but I was surprised to find it underground at the foot of a 2,000- 
foot well. 

Thirty feet above the floor of the shaft, we swung to a stop so 
that I might have a good elevation for taking pictures. It was a 
little while before I could see what was going on. My eyelids 
seemed to be pasted together by the torrents which never ceased, 
but when I was able to open my eyes, I looked down on a crew 
of forty black men in white shiny oilskins crawling like ranks of 
white maggots over slabs of glistening rock and gravel and 
sludge. 

Our bucket was rotating in the most disconcerting way- 
round and round, and no way to stop it with the cable from 
which we were suspended a couple of thousand feet long. There 
were wonderful subjects, but snatching a picture when you are 
constantly being swept past what you've seen is like grabbing 
the brass ring on a merry-go-round. The extra raincoat we had 
brought to be used as a sort of umbrella over me and the cameras 
whipped and flapped in the torrent. I had brought four Rollei- 
flexes, and as fast as one became soaked and useless, I started on 
the next We had to go up now; our bucket was needed for 
tools. This was once in my life when I didn't say, "J ust one 



more." 



It was a great comfort to look above as we ascended and see 
that little square of daylight over our heads expand and grow. 
Suddenly it stopped growing. We came to a dead stop. Some- 
thing was stuck in the braking machinery. We were only 25 
feet from the surface, but to me that meant there were 1,975 feet 



LAND OF DARKNESS AND DIAMONDS 3 2 I 

of the void under us. I wished the foreman had not told us of 
that accident with the bucketful of tools, or that I had not heard 
still another story about a bucket filled with miners, which tore 
loose, hitting another bucket filled with miners, sending both 
downward in the fatal plunge. 

We dangled for a long twelve minutes. Then the machinery 
performed once more, and we stepped out on the crust of the 
earth safely and gratefully. 

In the lovely rolling hills of Cape Province, enormous vine- 
yards stretch to the far horizon. The wine country lies to the 
east, above the magnificent Table Mountain Falls, with its en- 
chanting "tablecloth" of mist and spray, which appears mysteri- 
ously, hovers over the table-shaped top of the falls, shrinks, 
flutters, expands, vanishes. 

The white owners of these spreading vineyards are just as in- 
terested in getting cheap labor as are the mine owners, but here 
in the vineyards, where the "coloreds" (the term used for half- 
castes) are employed in large numbers, the plantation owners 
have evolved their own way of securing it. The method is simple 
and insidious, with a kind of insurance rider on the future. The 
procedure seemed so monstrous to me that I found it difficult to 
believe even when it was in front of my eyes. 

Children as well as adults who work in the vineyards are paid 
partly in wine, which is deducted from their salary. This is rec- 
ognized procedure, known as the "tot" system. The working day 
begins before dawn. At 5:00 A.M. the children receive their first 
wine tot, and before nightfall they will have four more tots. Not 
only does this save the winegrower money, but it habituates the 
youngest vineyard workers to a dependence on alcohol. Child 
laborers are desirable to plantation owners. Children will grow 
up into customers as well as employees, for soon the daily tot 
is no longer enough. 

Nothing had made me so angry since I photographed "un- 
touchable" children working in the tanneries of South India. 
Here in South Africa, the situation was particularly tragic be- 
cause there was little chance a child of the vineyards could escape 
the pattern as long as apartheid, or separateness, was the ap- 
proved state of society. 



322 LAND OF DARKNESS AND DIAMONDS 

Saturday is payday in the town of Constantia. By midafter- 
noon the town is sodden, and its main street is dreadful to see. 
The sidewalks and gutters are littered with the bodies of wine 
laborers who have used the cash portion of the week's pay to 
buy wine and still more wine. 

Saturday is not only a day of revelry but a day to buy the 
week's groceries. The saddest sights of all were of women 
sprawled unconscious on the sidewalk among spilled groceries 
to which passersby helped themselvesoften adding a kick for 
thanks. By twilight, the saloons are taken over by those who can 
still stand. 

The last act of this shoddy drama is the arrival of the big 
winegrowers' trucks; they are quickly filled with workers lifted 
literally from the gutters. With the weekend ahead, nobody will 
trouble about the formalities. If the winegrowers fail to find as 
many farmhands as they need, they will go to the local jail, 
where there are sure to be a plentiful number of laborers sleep- 
ing off their big day. Cleaning out the jail is a convenient way 
to insure free labor for several days. 

Jails have a usefulness all their own in South Africa. A farm 
jail system provides cheap labor for many farmers in the veld 
country. Under it, groups of farmers build and maintain coop- 
erative jails and keep them stocked with prisoners. The shilling 
a day per prisoner which the farmer pays the government serves 
to beat down the wages for agricultural laborers who are not 
convicts. The prisoners are, of course, paid nothing. 

For me the South African assignment was an exercise in di- 
plomacy. I felt it called on all my powers. It underlined a dilemma 
in which I found myself with increasing frequency, both in and 
out of Africa. What are you going to do when you disapprove 
thoroughly of the state of affairs you are recording? What are 
the ethics of a photographer in a situation like this? You need 
people's help to get permissions and make arrangements; you are 
dependent on the good will of those around you. Perhaps they 
think you share their point of view. However angry you are, 
you cannot jeopardize your official contacts by denouncing an 
outrage before you have photographed it. 

I like to do my work without lying, if I can. Telling the truth 
does not necessarily mean revealing the whole truth. I feel you 



LAND OF DARKNESS AND DIAMONDS 323 

need not give away the pattern in your mind. There is an ad- 
vantage in having those little mosaics before your mind's eye 
which will tell the whole story when it is complete when each 
piece falls in place. The individual subjects will then add up to 
something you see, not what someone else wants you to see. 
Often your salvation lies in some little thing which you can 
praise. It was difficult to praise the plight of the vineyard chil- 
dren, but I could say it was splendid to have them working in 
the lovely fresh air. As for the farm jails, I could always say they 
were clean (and they were), which would please the Director 
of Prisons who was conducting me. I could commend the ex- 
cellent meat stew I was given to sample. There was no need for 
me to point out that even farm animals must be fed well to work 
well. Still, each subject made one more tile in my working 
pattern. 

Not every white citizen believes in apartheid. Some white 
farmers deplored the revelry in Constantia on payday, and some 
few carried it further to a strong denouncement of child labor. 
There were white citizens I met in many places as well as Con- 
stantia who were against the injustices of apartheid, but their 
voices were few and faintly heard. 

Many rimes during my travels in South Africa I heard state- 
ments that could have been made in our own Deep South. "The 
Negro is lazy." . . . "The Negro hasn't the capacity for an edu- 
cation. He doesn't have the brain in his head that the white 
man does." . . . "Let him prove first that he can help himself." 
These remarks made me sad that America, standing as it does for 
equal rights of all citizens, had not led the way by example. 

The shantytowns, which Alan Paton wrote about so movingly 
in Cry, the Beloved Country, have become the national ghettos 
of South Africa. They are inhabited largely by African house 
servants, who are not allowed to spend their nights within the 
city because of their black skins. Their homes are a tangled mir- 
acle of housing, shanties thrown together with crates, gaso- 
line tins, burlap sacks, anything a homeless family might lay 
hands on. The shantytowns have reached enormous size and 
spectacular squalor. There are only the most primitive sanitary 
facilities, no health services, no police protection. That doesn't, 
by any means, keep the police out! 



324 LAND OF DARKNESS AND DIAMONDS 

The police are usually Afrikaner farm boys, well steeped in 
white-supremacy psychology. They break into homes at any 
hour, on any pretext. It may be a "pass raid," in which they will 
pick up anyone found without the proper passes; they will rip 
through the location, tearing up the floorboards, pulling people 
out of bed, throwing mattresses on the floor, looking for illegal 
beer. 

Once I accompanied the police on a dawn raid. It was a lesson 
in terrorization. People were just beginning to stir in the semi- 
darkness when the police charged through the compound with 
clubs and guns. Those who were commuters had to catch early 
buses to get to work. Men and women who had to leave early 
for their jobs had no choice but to use the primitive sanitary fa- 
cilities without any chance of privacy in the midst of raiding 
police. Most vividly, I remember the faces and eyes of terror- 
stricken children who peeped cautiously through windows and 
cracks of doors, as the police tore through their squalid court- 
yards. 

In one of the shantytowns, I visited a Sunday mass meeting in 
which the people dared to carry banners with the slogan STOP 
POLICE TERROR, and fiery speakers denounced police brutality. 
It must have taken courage to either speak or listen, as meetings 
are apt to be broken up with violence. 

Fear is everywhere in South Africa. It nourishes the social 
system of apartheid and reaches to every heart, white and black. 
It breeds ever-increasing controls which the white impose on 
the black. The black man may not learn skilled trades. He may 
carry bricks for the white bricklayer, but he may not lay bricks. 
He may tote planks and building materials, but he may not learn 
carpentry. To the saviors of white civilization, a major safeguard 
is the continued ignorance and illiteracy of the black man. 

Occasionally, a very strong character will break the pattern. I 
visited a remarkable native woman named Caroline Mauvoo, a 
big-bosomed, Southern-mammy type who "raised a little school," 
as she expressed it, because she thought it was "needful to help 
people deeper in trouble than myself." 

She started the school in the summer under an apple tree. Her 
home, like those of many of her neighbors, was built of crates 
and gasoline tins, but she managed to crowd in her students in 



LAND OF DARKNESS AND DIAMONDS 325 

bad weather. When the classes expanded, she sold old clothes 
until she had enough money to establish a school in a ramshackle 
farmhouse. An ever-increasing spirit of revolt is rising in the 
native reserves and shantytowns. 

The white man's best guarantee of preserving the status quo 
is to keep the black man isolated. Nowhere is this isolation more 
complete than in the great diamond mines on the Skeleton Coast 
of South- West Africa, below the mouth of the Orange River. 
Along the wild rocky rim of the south Atlantic Ocean, the 
waves have scooped out gloomy caves and carved tall arches 
which stand up out of the sea with angry breakers boiling 
around their feet. I have seldom seen a more forbidding land- 
scape. At first sight, it is hard to believe that such rich bounty 
is hidden just below the surface, waiting to be dug up. 

No mere wanderer ever gets into the tightly guarded Diamond 
Coast. One hears legends about lucky travelers who found dia- 
monds with the gravel in their shoes; these tales may be exag- 
gerated, but certainly along this inhospitable coastline, there is 
an infinity of diamonds. 

Along the bleak and almost empty highways, there are signs 
in three languages: Afrikaans, German and English, warning 
that anyone who steps off the road will be subject to imprison- 
ment and fines up to $10,000. I never figured out how the way- 
farer could answer a call of nature legally while touring these 
highways. 

The old familiar barbed wire, which fills so many needs in 
South Africa, was much in evidence on the Diamond Coast. 
Here, whites as well as blacks are locked in at night behind miles 
of barbed-wire fencing, and whites like the blacks must be 
X-rayed on leaving. But there the resemblance stops. The white 
families live in a sparkling new town, with tennis courts and 
playgrounds. Black men have no provision made for their fami- 
lies. Their families live several hundred miles away over desert 
and mountains. 

The black miners were squeezed into rows of modern and no 
doubt sanitary concrete cubicles, packed as tight as oranges in a 
crate. With vacant land and barbed wire in such plentiful sup- 
ply, I wondered why the fence around the compound had not 
been extended to make more roomy quarters and perhaps a 



326 LAND OF DARKNESS AND DIAMONDS 

recreation area. On Sundays, the miners washed their clothes. 

On my first walk around the encampment with an escort of 
company officers, I saw a strange spectacle. An enormous Negro, 
dressed in a kind of man-from-Mars suit bright yellow and 
heavily padded, with matching crash helmet was writhing on the 
ground, trying to fight off a pair of savage dogs with dripping 
fangs. This was Lazarus, I was told; and this was Lazarus's job: 
to train dogs in ferocity so they would attack a man. Anyone 
rash enough to attempt an escape with diamonds was fully aware 
he risked having the whole savage dog pack in pursuit. 

This was part of the miragelike quality of South Africa. The 
savage dogs had their place in the atmosphere of unreality that 
permeated everything in this country. The gold and diamonds 
for which half the population was searching were so unrelated 
to human needs, and so remote. Something happens in the Lon- 
don gold market or the Bank of France or in downtown New 
York, and it sends the men I saw or hundreds of others like them 
scurrying down into the moist warm darkness to scavenge for 
golden crumbs. On the Diamond Coast, the remoteness seemed 
even greater. 

Diamonds are so plentiful that, if exported freely, they would 
lose all fashion value. From the costly chill of the impeccable 
stones that decorate some woman's wrist to industrial diamonds, 
the diamond industry is controlled by one of the tightest cartels 
in the world. The stones are exported a few at a time so their 
arbitrarily set worth may be maintained. 

In some locations, diamonds are so close to the surface they can 
be swept out with a broom. Frequently the miners find large 
stones lying free. At the end of a day's work, I watched a long 
line of miners filing past the cashier's office. Each man opened 
up his little matchbox or torn handkerchief and turned in the 
loose diamonds he'd found during the day. Several had four or 
five large stones. I photographed one man who brought in 
eleven diamonds, valued at $33,000. For each large stone, the 
miners receive a bonus. "How much of a bonus?" I wanted to 
know. The bonus was sixpence per diamond. This was not paid 
in cash, but in the form of a credit slip which could be spent at 
the company store. 

A diamond may be "forever" in the sense that it wears well 



LAND OF DARKNESS AND DIAMONDS 327 

and won't break, but its value is not forever. Just try to sell a dia- 
mond, as I once did, and suddenly you find you have a "used" 
diamond on your hands a "secondhand" diamond. 

Among the diamond miners, there were two or three men for- 
tunate in having been taught by missionaries. They were eager 
to share their smattering of literacy with their fellows. Lessons 
in reading, writing and arithmetic were somehow squeezed in 
between the work in the mines and the Sunday laundry. 

I found a quiet heroism in this struggle for literacy, which 
was inspiring. These lessons would not make scholars of dia- 
mond miners. But perhaps they would open a chink in the wall 
through which they could glimpse wider horizons in the world 
outside. Just as a diamond is not forever, ignorance and slavery 
are not forever. 



328 



CHAPTER XXVIII 



GUERRILLA 
WARFARE 
IN KOREA 



lEOPLE OFTEN ask me, "What is the best cam- 
era?" That is like asking, "What is the best surgeon's tool?" 
Different cameras fill different needs. I have always had special 
affection for the larger-than-miniature cameras, where I can have 
the pleasure of composing on the ground glass. My way was 
to key in the story with a view camera, or reflex of some sort, 
working for as beautiful and striking compositions as I could 
make. Then I cleaned up the corners with the miniatures. I had 
used miniature cameras to some extent ever since the Louisville 
flood in the middle '305, but it took a Japanese riot to make a 
confirmed miniature camera user of me. 

I had .stopped off in Japan, where Life had a Tokyo office, in 
the early spring of 1952 when I was en route to the Korean War. 
I was in Japan only briefly, but long enough to photograph an 
anti-American riot in the Imperial Plaza. I worked from the top 
of our Life station wagon, where Jun Mild, Life's Japanese 
photographer, had arranged my various cameras so I could reach 
them easily. When the first rock whizzed past my ear, I laid 
down my view camera on its tripod, never to pick it up again that 
day. While frenzied mobs surged around the car, striking up at 



GUERRILLA WARFARE IN KOREA 329 

me with the staves of their Red banners, I shot out my pair of 
Rolleiflexes in minutes, and I never had time to reload them. Two 
other reflex cameras were almost impossible to adjust, with my 
eyes streaming from repeated bursts of tear gas. 

I fell back on the pair of miniature cameras which I had strung 
around my neck. These focused easily and gave me a total of 
seventy-two shots, which sounds like a lot, but melts fast in a 
riot. It happened that these were Japanese-made Nikons and my 
Japanese driver knew how to load them. Fast as one camera was 
shot out, I handed it down through a big jagged hole in the side 
window where a rock had sailed through. Somehow, my gallant 
little driver managed to stay at the wheel and load my cameras 
at the same time. 

My growing facility with miniature cameras was of great im- 
portance in Korea, where I dealt with human situations which 
could be recorded in no other way. I flew by Army freight 
plane, one of the bucket-seat models, from Tokyo, across the 
Japan Sea, to Pusan. 

I had asked my Life editors to send me to Korea for rather 
different reasons than other correspondents had had. For nearly 
two years the war had been raging relentlessly with no sign of 
ending. The various aspects of this confused situation had been 
reported with courage and skill. 

Probably no war in history had been so thoroughly docu- 
mented. My own magazine had given it brilliant coverage, with 
David Douglas Duncan and Carl Mydans on the hot front at the 
38th parallel almost from the beginning. Howard Sochurek para- 
chuted in with the iSyth Airborne. Michael Rougier and another 
half-dozen of my Life colleagues had put their personal stamp 
on hundreds of dramatic and sensitive photographs. With all the 
major news services and broadcasting chains, each with its quota 
of photographers, reporters and broadcasters on the spot, Korea 
was the most consistently raked-over news center in the world. 

Still I felt that there was an important area which no one had 
covered: the Korean people themselves. Certainly with war 
sweeping back and forth across their homeland, the people must 
be deeply affected. I yearned to look into that great undisclosed 
vacuum that lay south of the 38th parallel. What were the 
Korean people doing? What were they saying jind thinking? 



J30 GUERRILLA WARFARE IN KOREA 

Before leaving New York, managing editor Ed Thompson 
had said, "Maggie, take three months if you need it, roaming 
around Korea, and when you've found a new story you think 
is your story, cable us." I love the challenge of an assignment that 
sends me digging out dark places and trying to open them to the 
light. I did not dream then, as I talked with my editors in New 
York, that I would find among the people of Korea a savage, 
capsule war within the war. 

I was traveling through the great rice bowl of central Korea 
when I first heard serious talk of Communist guerrillas. I stopped 
off at Chonju, the tiny capital of Cholla Pukto, where a group 
of United Nations military and civil advisers had set up head- 
quarters. Dusk was closing in, and I hoped I would be able to 
get food and lodging and, if I was very lucky, an idea. I was 
fortunate in finding all three. 

The food was Army rations adequate but unexceptional. As 
for lodging, I had been living out of my bedroll for weeks, and 
all I needed was a stretch of dry floor to unroll it on. My quarters 
turned out to be rather unusual. I was put up in a big, gloomy 
shack of a building, once part of a Presbyterian hospital. 

In the morning, I learned I had been sleeping over the cellar 
where American General Dean had been held a prisoner by the 
Communists, after his capture at Taejon. Since then, the area 
had been won back for our side. I had known General (then 
Colonel) Dean slightly during the African campaign in World 
War II, where he had helped me cut some red tape. I remembered 
him as soft-spoken, self-effacing and straight-to-the-point. I 
crawled down rather reverently into the dank gloomy cellar and 
wondered how people in general and I in particular would be 
able to stand up as he did under endless questioning, fading 
health, and the loneliness of the dark cellar. 

At early morning mess, I met the first shimmering of the Idea. 
A small knot of officers were talking about a daring guerrilla raid 
during the night on the outskirts of the town. An Army supply 
truck, bound for the United Nations front, had been ambushed, 
overturned and set on fire. The officers were particularly con- 
cerned that the holdup took place right on the "M.S.R." our 
Major Supply Route that ran like an artery from the southern 
tip of Korea to the fighting front. 



GUERRILLA WARFARE IN KOREA 3 3 I 

Only a few days before my arrival, there had been a spectacu- 
lar train raid on the Eusak Express a vital strand in our lifeline 
from the seaports to our men at the 38th parallel. American 
soldiers traveling on the Eusak Express drove off the guerrillas, 
but not before they had killed three GIs and some sixty civilians 
who were unlucky enough to be riding the death train. 

I was very curious to hear more about the guerrillas. "They 
are as fast as rabbits, and as cautious as virgins," Major Davis 
said. Anti-guerrilla operations came under the jurisdiction of the 
Korean National Police, not of our United Nations armies. Maj. 
Lewis Davis in Cholla Pukto, Col. Earle C. Riedley in Cholla 
Namdo, and his excellent Sergeant Dupont, in civilian life a 
policeman in Providence, Rhode Island, were police advisers to 
the Koreans. Major Davis was a lanky, loose-limbed, freckle- 
faced Southerner, who in peacetime was a freight agent in 
Birmingham, Alabama. He led a kind of Wild West existence 
here in Korea. Although his work, I was sure, was often hazard- 
ous, I could tell from the way he spoke that he loved the excite- 
ment of it. To me, he seemed half cowboy. 

The Major took me to his office to explain how the guerrillas 
came to be. Early in the Korean War, when the tide of battle 
was running against us, the North Korean Army pushed our 
United Nations forces down as far as the Pusan perimeter. The 
Communists used their period of occupation well, in an intense 
program of making converts, forming youth groups and organiz- 
ing guerrilla bands. When our UN armies broke through and 
forced the enemy north in a great bypass operation, there was a 
substantial portion in the mountainous interior we were never 
able to reclaim entirely. The converts fled to this no-manVland 
of the wild interior. 

Certain officers of the North Korean Army stayed behind to 
direct roving guerrilla bands. Under the command of these 
picked officers, the guerrillas were virtually a hidden wing of the 
North Korean People's Army, harassing our communications 
lines, robbing and burning villages and terrorizing the peasants. 

A relatively small number of guerrillas, skillfully directed, the 
Major pointed out, could tie down many times their own num- 
ber. The regulars in the National Police and their unpaid "Volun- 
teers" were overwhelmed by the Gargantuan task of patrolling 



332 GUERRILLA WARFARE IN KOREA 

every stretch of rail looped through the hills, every major truck 
route, with its overhanging cliffs and myriad jackknife turns. 

Major Davis's office walls were papered with large-scale maps 
and charts. I was struck by the names of some of these units: 
"Women's Work Battalion," "Anti-U.S. Regiment." To me, it 
was significant and ominous that there should be a guerrilla unit 
named the "Anti-U.S. Regiment," filled with fanatical youngsters 
who probably had never seen an American in their lives. 

The degree of organization in these roving bands astonished 
me. Though constantly on the run, each unit had its political 
wing and its military wing, with sharply defined duties for each. 
The guerrillas even got out a weekly newspaper, mimeographed 
in a cave. When they ran short of paper, they used wallpaper. I 
remember seeing several in purple with an overlay of green and 
silver. One very chaste issue, white with gold designs, contained 
a Korean translation of a speech by Stalin. The "news sheet" 
lauded the Communist victories (greatly exaggerated) at the 
front and stated that the brutal Americans would be driven from 
the land. The paper was distributed by runners through the 
mountains. 

I began to sense the broad outlines of my story. Here was a 
situation extensive enough to harass the UN supply lines and 
intimate enough to divide loyalties within families. Sometimes 
when a boy had run away to join the Communists, and a neutral 
villager informed his mother of his whereabouts, she would 
climb into the mountains and implore her son to leave the Com- 
munist band. I found it deeply moving that all this conflict of 
beliefs was so close to home that a grieving mother would brave 
the perils of the dark and the mountain crags to plead with her 
boy to come home. Here was a civil war with friend against 
friend, and brother against brother. Here was a war of ideas 
which cut through every village and through the human heart 
itself. 

This was my story. 

But how was I to get it? This quandary of where to break the 
surface and plunge into the story is an experience I have gone 
through repeatedly on other large picture-essays. But no matter 
how much I remind myself of this, it never fails to be upsetting. 
Suddenly all the most wanted subjects seem invisible or unat- 
tainable. I knew very well I could not climb to the top of Mt. 



GUERRILLA WARFARE IN KOREA 



333 




In a Korean village a wife, mother and grandmother lament the 
death of their boy in guerrilla warfare. 



Chiri-san where One-armed Hwang, a sort of King of the Guer- 
rillas, had his headquarters, and say, "I'm from Life. May I take 
your pictures, please?" The guerrillas, I was reasonably certain, 
had not read the terms of the Geneva Conference-which pro- 
vides that war correspondents are noncombatants, who may be 
captured but not killed. 

The camera is a remarkable instrument. Saturate yourself with 
your subject, and the camera will all but take you by^the hand 
and point the way. This is just what happened to me in Korea. 



334 GUERRILLA WARFARE IN KOREA 

When the story did begin to materialize, it came with such a 
rush that I was overwhelmed with the richness of it. There were 
too many photographic subjects crying out to be recorded. 

Also, before I'd finished, there was a price on my head. I 
found this rather flattering. I don't think the Communist guer- 
rillas knew what I was trying to do, but an American woman 
who went everywhere with cameras was a ready-made suspect. 
I never learned the cash value of my head to the guerrillas, but 
I hoped my price came high. 

I soon found myself working and traveling almost exclusively 
with Koreans. I always welcome the chance to travel unaccom- 
panied in a country new to me, because I think the people will 
open up to one foreign traveler where they might not to a group. 
This was particularly rewarding in Korea. It came as a surprise 
to me that the Koreans, despite their difficulties, were such 
hearty, outgiving, spirited people whose wit has well earned 
them the phrase "Irish of the Orient." 

On several occasions when there was an inaccessible spot I 
wanted to reach, I was set down by Army helicopter in some 
prearranged field or clearing. The pilot, usually an American, 
would make sure before flying back that I was left in the hands 
of the local police. 

I disappeared for weeks at a time. My only worry was receiv- 
ing film shipments. Life's Tokyo office did all but use a divining 
rod, and ended by sending everything in triplicate packages to 
three different places, hoping I would connect with at least one 
of them. The system worked. 

I slept in some odd places. Frequently, I unrolled my bedding 
in police headquarters. I remember one such place which had a 
futong of bright, flowered material, fashioned like an oversized 
padded kimono with a great stiff collar and quilted sleeves. I had 
met futongs before, and learned that before scrambling into the 
stiff garment, half-kimono, half-mattress, you must decide 
whether to face the ceiling all night or the floor, because either 
way, you are held completely rigid until dawn comes to set you 
free. I would greatly have preferred my own army blankets, but 
the police were so proud of being able to produce this sleep 
chaser for a guest that I could not disappoint them. 

On another occasion, the local chief of police came to my 



GUERRILLA WARFARE IN KOREA 335 

room at night and stayed for several hours. I was startled when 
he invited himself in. With hardly a word, he seated himself 
cross-legged on the rice mat opposite me. Until late at night, he 
sat reading his Korean Bible, his lips moving; then he rose to his 
feet and went out as quietly as he had come. 

I had still another contact with the Christian religion. In the 
foothills of Mt. Chiri-san, I went to the home of a priest whom 
I knew slightly, hoping he would take me in for the night. The 
good Father was away, and the house was locked up tight, except 
for the vestibule. I was sure the Father would be willing for me 
to take sanctuary under his roof. While I was preparing for the 
night, the priest's houseboy showed up and asked in pidgin 
English if he might drop in for evening prayers. He returned 
with four earnest-faced young men, who squatted as close as 
they could to the edges of the vestibule. We all sat in embarrassed 
silence until I realized that they were waiting for me to lead 
their prayers for them. 

We were entering the typhoon season. When we were held 
up by rains too heavy for guerrillas or guerrilla hunters, I was 
installed in comparative luxury in the smallest hotel I've ever 
seen. It was little more than a row of cubicles with well-worn 
oiled paper serving as walls. The paper-bound cells surrounded 
a small courtyard which was knee-deep in creamy mud. I chafed 
at the delay until I became acquainted with a guest in the cell 
to my right. He was a schoolteacher of music and English. This 
was just the combination of talents I needed. As I am a very 
poor linguist, I seldom manage to pick up more than a few polite 
phrases in the countries I visit, but I always learn at least one 
son g_ n ot only to increase my midget vocabulary, but because a 
song has inestimable friendship value. This was certainly die 
perfect opportunity to learn a Korean song. I don't know how 
the other guests endured it with only the paper walls to deaden 
the sound, but as it rained and rained, we sang and sang. 

Frequently I ran into Koreans who, like the music teacher, 
knew some English and were delighted with the chance to brush 
up on it by translating for me. Some of these were police in- 
terpreters. 

One in particular, with whom I worked a good deal, spoke 
excellent English with an Irish accent, acquired during his up- 



336 GUERRILLA WARFARE IN KOREA 

bringing by the Catholic mission Fathers. Captain Pak was bright, 
energetic and excessively courteous. While other translators 
would answer me politely with "Yes, sir," or "No, sir," Captain 
Pak replied to any comment I might make with "Yes, Father," 
or "No, Father." 

Of all my varied lodgings, I loved sleeping in the police boxes 
the best. These little shacks, sprinkled along the mountain ranges 
and ringed around with bamboo staves, were so crammed with 
communications equipment, field telephones and rifles, that it 
always seemed a miracle that they could take in one more person. 
But somehow there was always enough floor space for a bedroll 
in some corner. I adored these places just as a small boy would 
adore sleeping in the firehouse so as to be right there when 
something broke. Wrapped like a sausage in my bedroll, I would 
doze off happily while the noises rattled around me and Korean 
voices yelled through the balky field telephones. I slept serene 
in the knowledge that if some guerrilla action broke, I would 
be in on it. 

From time to time, after a successful term of guerrilla hunting 
and picture taking, I managed to break away for a much-needed 
cleanup to a spot I was beginning to regard as my Korean home. 
This was in Kwangju, a sprawling, dusty town, and the capital 
of Cholla Namdo province. 

Kwangju was the center of our ROK training program, in 
which UN Army officers, usually American, taught South Ko- 
rean soldiers how to use tanks and other battle equipment. 

The commanding officer of Kwangju was Col. Albert Wing, 
a courtly gentleman who was the perfect prototype of a Southern 
colonel. One glance at Colonel Wing, and you felt sure he was 
born with silver eagles on has shoulders. I met him through the 
kindly offices of the UN Press Officer in Pusan, Col. "Buck" 
Rogers, who phoned ahead to make sure I would have some 
civilized place to stay when I was working in the interior. Colo- 
nel Wing said, "I have a house on the hill named 'The Mississippi,' 
although I come from Kentucky. It has several rooms for visiting 
officers. I think the young lady could stay here without being 
compromised." 

No matter how full with guests The Mississippi wasonce I 
displaced a visiting major general or how muddy and bedraggled 



GUERRILLA WARFARE IN KOREA 337 

I was, Colonel Wing would say, "Welcome home. The house 
needs a woman," and he would call his houseboy: "Come, Kim, 
and clean up the young lady's clothes." Kim would stay up all 
night washing my things and ironing them dry so I could go out 
fresh the next morning. 

On one of these brief stopovers, Colonel Wing gave a party 
in my honor at the bungalow newly built to serve as an Officers' 
Club. Happily, on a last-minute impulse when I was packing for 
the trip, I had tucked a dress into my bedroll. The Colonel was 
immensely pleased, because he knew his men had not seen an 
American woman in some time. He introduced me with these 
words: "The social season begins and ends with Miss Bourke- 
White. You may stand in line to touch her hand." 

During one of these brief contacts with what seemed like 
big-city life, I checked in with Major Davis to be brought up to 
date on the overall picture. As my work was taking me farther 
and farther into the wilderness, Major Davis insisted that I carry 
a .45, even if I used it only to fire in the air to warn guerrillas 
that I was armed. I knew some of my colleagues in the press 
carried some sort of weapon, even though this was against cur- 
rent practice for war correspondents. This was because of the 
enemy's lurid reputation for torture. But in my case, I told the 
Major, this seemed ridiculous. I didn't even know how to use a 
.45. The Major said, "I'll teach you." 

He took me out to the base of a semicircular cliff, a spot used 
for target practice, and taught me how to hold and fire the re- 
volver. To the complete astonishment of both of us, out of thirty- 
five rounds, I made thirty-three bull's-eyes. I can ascribe this 
spectacular feat only to my profession. Most beginners make the 
mistake of shutting their eyes when they start shooting. Any 
photographer who shuts his eyes when he starts shooting should 
be in another profession. 

Back in Kwangju, a captain whom Colonel Wing had assigned 
to me while I was in the area felt that a .45 wasn't enough. I 
should have a longer-range weapon, a carbine which I could 
wear over my shoulder along with my cameras. Again I said, 
"That's ridiculous. I don't know how to use a carbine." 

He took me to an enormously long rifle range used in train- 
ing ROK soldiers to shoot. He instructed me in the prone, 



338 GUERRILLA WARFARE IN KOREA 

squatting, kneeling and leaning-over-the-jeep positions, and out 
of twenty-five rounds, I shot twenty-five bulPs-eyes. "FU be no 
good at moving targets," I said. So he gave me some practice on 
that, and I shot a crow! The Captain said, "Someday you'll shoot 
twenty-five rounds in this range with a pocket pistol, and I will 
ask to be sent home as a psycho case! " 

When I once more started back into the wilderness, Colonel 
Wing said, "My sympathy is all with the guerrillas." 

The most colorful guerrilla hunter I worked with, and the 
most renowned, was Police Chief Han Kyon Lok. The Chief 
was a big man with a chestful of medals. He was a big drinker 
of Japanese Ocean whiskey, and when that supply ran out, he 
was an equally big consumer of a local product, Venus brandy. 
He was a big ping-pong champion. The silver cups and banners 
that crowded his office walls and shelves attested to his very great 
mastery of the game. 

Chief Han ran his guerrilla raids as though he were a general, 
which in effect and power he really was. The command posts 
and observation points from which he directed his campaign 
looked like fortresses out of the Middle Ages. Crowning the 
mountaintops, they were ringed with double walls of tall, pointed 
bamboo staves. 

Within our bamboo barricades there was always one deeply 
dug ditch we could jump into in case the guerrillas started 
mortaring us. They had a weird collection of firearms, including 
some Chinese machine guns, some old Russian carbines and burp 
guns, and whatever American rifles they could steal from our 
armed forces. With no regular ammunition supply, they relied 
on whatever they could capture on raids. When it did not match 
their miscellaneous firearms, they were ingenious at reconverting 
the ammo to the weapon. It seemed bizarre to me that in a world 
that contained nuclear fission, there should be a place on this 
globe where a sharp-pointed bamboo fence could still have any 
defense value. 

In the turbulent weeks to come, as I worked with Chief Han 
and some other police chiefs, I came to think of this as a conflict 
between children. I remember the first time I was sniped at. The 
Volunteer Police with whom I was traveling rounded up our 
assailants and brought them in as prisoners. The youthfulness 

Chief Han at a primitive mountain fortress ringed by bamboo barricades. 



340 GUERRILLA WARFARE IN KOREA 

of these Communist guerrillas this handful of sullen teen-agers 
made me indignant. "The impudence of it! " I thought. "Have 
those youngsters been shooting at me? They ought to be in high 
school! " Yet the Volunteer Police on our side were just as young. 
They were very brave, though it made me sad that they were 
glorifying guns at such an early age. 

Often these Volunteers were assigned to areas where they 
had played and climbed as small boys, with the advantage that 
they carried in memory every steep slope, every patch of pro- 
tective shrubbery and every clump of grass tall enough to hide 
them. The disadvantage was that they were almost inevitably 
forced to betray childhood friends, which added to the bitterness 
of this already bitter conflict. 

These youngsters were masters of camouflage. They made 
little hats for themselves of leaves and flowers, and some of 
them attached branches to their backs which looked like butter- 
fly wings. I remember one very little boy who wore a charming 
hat he had made with daisies. This seemed a bit fancy to me, but 
not at all: he was shooting off a homemade mortar in a daisy 
field, and when he manned his weapon, he was all but invisible. 

Chief Han deployed these youthful Volunteer Police with 
remarkable precision for such wild terrain. One group of teen- 
agers would flush out the guerrillas from a mountaintop; a second 
group would hide just below the edge of the strategic pathways, 
ready to pounce on the Red guerrillas. There would be a fire 
fight, and frequently boys on both sides would be killed. 

The youngsters had to bring down their cumbersome victims 
alive or dead, so that Chief Han could identify the slain, or in- 
terrogate the living. Chief Han's main concern was to find those 
who were officers from the North Korean Army and check 
them against known lists. My chief interest was to find out how 
they lived in the wilderness, in this strange existence they had 
chosen. 

I remember one tall captive in particular who told me he had 
been quartermaster in his guerrilla band. "What on earth does a 
quartermaster do in the mountains?" I inquired. 

He answered that when the guerrillas planned a raid on a 
village, it was his job to allocate looting priorities. Food usually 
had first priority; paper and writing materials for the newspaper 



GUERRILLA WARFARE IN KOREA 




These hats, 'worn by youthful Volunteer Police, 'were not for play 
but for camouflage in the deadly game of guerrilla warfare. 



34* GUERRILLA WARFARE IN KOREA 

and other propaganda were always an important target. Highest 
priority was often placed on yardgoods. 

"What do you do with yardgoods in the mountains?" I asked. 

"I turn them over to the sewing machine expert." 

"You mean you have a sewing machine in the mountains?" 

"Yes, we have a Singer sewing machine in a cave. The expert 
takes the yardgoods, dyes them a dark color and makes guer- 
rillas' clothes. Sometimes we were lucky enough to get nuns' 
robes dark and lots of material." 

The difficulties of the quartermaster's job were multiplying 
as the anti-guerrilla teams pressed closer. They were hunted so 
closely they dared not stop to cook the food they had stolen lest 
the plume of smoke from their campfire be spotted. Sometimes 
their looted food was awkward to transport, such as the cow 
they had captured. Their bovine prize had to go on her own 
four feet up into the mountain a dangerous journey for both 
cow and comrade. These little glimpses of housekeeping prob- 
lems in a world so different from my own fascinated me. 

Whenever I had a chance to interrogate guerrillas we captured 
alive particularly young ones I asked why they had joined 
the Communists. What had been the appeal? 

A young woman guerrilla from Kwangju, who surrendered to 
our side, threw some light on this. The greatest appeal to her and 
many other young people was literacy. "I was only a house- 
maid," she said, "but all my life I wanted to study. The Commu- 
nist leaders pledged that all who joined would be taught to read 
and write. Also, they promised that I would have a position of 
increased dignity in the community. This was the first time in 
my life I was ever treated like a lady. It seemed such a good 
opportunity to get an education." 

I asked whether the Reds had kept these promises. For a time 
they had, she said, even when the UN armies were regaining 
territory and pushing up north through Kwangju. The Commu- 
nists ordered their converts to flee by the thousands into the 
mountains. The directions of the Central Communist Committee 
were explicit. They must carry a blanket and pens, paper and 
other writing materials and take to the hills. Their leaders warned 
them that if they stayed behind, they would be tortured by the 
cruel Americans; that the Americans were so demoralized and 



GUERRILLA WARFARE IN KOREA 343 

corrupt they would soon collapse anyway, and those who held 
out as Red guerrillas would be rewarded. The youngsters had 
all been told that under a Communist way of life their families 
would prosper and the farmers would become secure and rich. 

When they assembled in the hills, they went to school in the 
forest, and hidden by the green boughs, they studied reading 
and writing, using as a textbook a History of the Bokhevik 
Party. How I wished we had been ahead of the Reds in this! 
Perhaps then these impressionable girls and boys would have 
been learning to read not from a Soviet textbook, but from the 
Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address. 

As the guerrillas were more and more sorely pressed, every- 
thing began to disintegrate. The girl was given the job of cook 
for her unit, and every time they moved to another site, she had 
to carry her cooking pots and kettles herself. Her greatest dread 
was that she might lose her cooking utensils on some rapid dash 
to a new hideaway, and incur the wrath of the comrades. It was 
clear to her that the Reds had promised many things they could 
not fulfill She longed desperately to get back to her home, and 
during a raid she came running out of a bush with her hands up 
and surrendered to our side. 

When guerrillas were taken prisoner or brought in dead, Chief 
Han's men emptied their pockets to see what useful information 
they could glean as to future plans of attack. It astonished me 
that almost all guerrillas kept diaries. Sometimes they made very 
pretty ones, with scraps of bright-flowered cretonne on the 
covers. Usually these were more than diaries. They were minutes 
of frequent meetings their political leaders held in the hills. The 
emphasis was on ideology and self-criticism. A guerrilla had 
pledged to cut down twenty-nine telephone poles in one month. 
He confessed he had cut down only nine poles, but next month 
he would demolish forty. 

On my last sortie with Chief Han, he scored a great victory. 
His Volunteers killed eighteen guerrillas. Two of them were 
officials of the North Korean Communist Army, one in the mili- 
tary wing of their roving guerrilla troop, and one in the political 
wing. The Chief had been hunting them down for quite some 

time. 
I remember the day, bleak with rain. We were still under the 



344 GUERRILLA WARFARE IN KOREA 

whiplash of the typhoon. The eighteen motionless figures lay, 
dismal and still, on the slope of a small incline, eloquent expres- 
sion of a pursuit of false hopes ending only in death. They had 
been so sure they would win, because their topmost leaders had 
told them so. 

We had reached a bald mountaintop by a "road" which was 
little more than a ledge of treacherous rocks. It had the sharpest 
hairpin turns I've ever seen, and at one side the steep cliffs 
dropped sharply down. The Chief was insistent that I finish my 
work early so we could get out of the mountains by daylight. 
We had been more conspicuous than usual, coming up with a 
convoy of five jeeps. The hairpin turns gave the guerrillas excel- 
lent opportunities for ambushes. Their technique with turns was 
to station one party on the inside of the curve, so the driver 
would not see them before he rounded the bend, and a second 
group at the end of the curve, so the jeeps would get fire from 
two directions. Once you were in between the two groups, there 
was little chance to back out of ambush, because one friendly 
jeep might knock another over the cliff. 

Despite Chief Han's obvious impatience, I kept saying, "Just 
one more, just one more," like all photographers everywhere. 
The pounding rain slowed up my work considerably. As the 
light dwindled, I drew on my reserve of flashbulbs; Volunteers 
held extension cords as far as they would reach, so that I could 
side-light the figures and the background. The Chief paced up 
and down in an irritated way, and I knew that my "just one 
more" technique annoyed him a great deal. But this was once 
when "just one more'* paid off. Since we were so late, the Chief 
took the precaution of sending the security police ahead to guard 
the worst stretches of road. It was almost dark when I finally 
put away my four very damp cameras and climbed into the jeep. 

The five jeeps in our convoy crept slowly without headlights 
down the treacherous mountain road. We had been driving for 
a laborious half hour when we rounded a bend and above us saw 
a small blinking light. Chief Han, who was sitting beside me, said, 
"Something must be wrong. We have one of our police boxes 
up there, but they never give away their position at night. We'll 
stop and see what's going on." 

Immediately all the men in the jeeps jumped out and pointed 



GUERRILLA WARFARE IN KOREA 345 

their guns either up the steep cliff on one side of the road or 
down the precipice on the other so we would not be surprised 
from either direction. I was impressed at how quickly they took 
up defensive positions. 

I jumped out of the jeep, too, with both my .45 and my 
carbine ready. I decided that this was the occasion for the .45, 
and I only hoped that if we were in a fire fight, I would not shoot 
my friends. I remember how the rain beat into our faces and 
eyes. I was standing next to the Chief's driver, who said in a 
quiet voice, "Doesn't that look like a man in white coming to- 
ward us?" "It certainly does," I whispered. In the next instant 
we both recognized that the moving creatures were nothing more 
than giant fireflies seen through the pelting rain. 

Our relief was short-lived. We heard shots rattling through 
the rocky slopes. The guerrillas had come to keep their appoint- 
ment with us, undoubtedly thinking we would leave the moun- 
tain in daylight. Our Volunteers had found them. Their delaying 
action gave us time to send up additional reinforcements. Later 
we learned that if we had succeeded in passing through that 
first ambush alive, we would have met a major obstacle around 
the next bend. The guerrillas had rolled a boulder onto the road, 
which had started a small avalanche of rocks loosened by the 
rain. With the avalanche and the boulder blocking our way, the 
guerrillas would have had a picnic with us. 

Chief Han pounded me affectionately on the back. "Miss 
Peggy," he said, "you must always say 'just one more,' because 
if you had not said 'just one more,' my wife would be a widow 
tomorrow." 

The Chief ordered a truck sent up mounted with a machine 
gun. We descended the long way around on the far side of the 
mountain. There is nothing more comforting than to have a 
machine gun in your party. 

As we rolled down into the foothills, the Chief said, "We must 
celebrate our great victory. We will go to a wonderful Buddhist 
temple at Haenam for our victory party. Would you like that, 
Miss Peggy?" Naturally, the phrase leaped to my mind: "Itfe 
Goes to a Party in a Buddhist Temple," and I said, "Yes, that 
would be very nice. Thank you." 

"This is a famous old temple," the Chief told me. "Im sure 

[OVERLEAF] Chief Han celebrates his successes over Red guerrillas at a victory 
party in a Buddhist temple. 



348 GUERRILLA WARFARE IN KOREA 

you'll want to see some of the two-thousand-year-old art ob- 
jects there." When we arrived at the temple, I found there were 
art objects there five of them not two thousand but a bare 
twenty years old. 

The Chief had brought the five most beautiful kisaeng girls 
from Mokpo by boat. He must have been sure of his victory, 
because when we arrived, the kisaeng girls were already there 
and had been waiting for us in the temple for two days. 

A kisaeng girl is, I learned, the Korean version of a geisha 
girl, and her duties are about the same. She sings very nicely, 
she dances beautifully, she waits table daintily, and she has other 
accomplishments. It was a wonderful party! We took off our 
shoes and sat cross-legged on the floor and ate from a long table 
about eight inches high. Tucked under the edge of the table, 
ready for action, I kept my cameras, right at my side. 

I followed my usual rule in the Orient of eating only food 
that was cooked. I was willing to leave the raw cow's brain to 
others. I took a mouthful of wild mountain spinach, but only 
a cautious sip of the Korean soup kimchi, because I knew from 
past experience that it was spiced like fire. When the Koreans 
found I was willing to eat hard-boiled eggs, they brought me a 
bowl of forty of them. 

I did not dare to try the Korean sake, because I had to work. 
But Chief Han had done his work, and the kisaeng girls were 
working. They poured the sake from pewter teapots; they drank 
from little teacups; it was warmed up just like tea. But the effect 
was not the same. It did not require many teacups to make all 
the banqueters feel wonderful 

No Oriental feast would be complete without song. The 
Chief's favorite kisaeng girl, Miss Moon, sang; the other kisaeng 
girls sang; the police officers sang; Chief Han bellowed out a 
song; and then it was my turn. I'm sure that everyone expected 
me to sing an American song. I had been practicing for some- 
thing like this ever since my lesson from the music teacher. I 
sang my little Korean song. I doubt if there has ever been more 
handclapping in a Buddhist temple than there was that night 
for me. 



349 



CHAPTER XXIX 



NIM CHURL-JIN 



IN WORKING on a large photo-essay such as this 
Korean one, I always feel as though I am building a piece of 
architecture, thinking of each subject not for itself alone, but 
as something to be integrated with the main theme. I arn always 
nervous as a cat until the main building blocks are in place, and 
this story was no exception. I was perhaps in a deeper state of 
anxiety and suspense than usual. I had pictures that I liked and 
which I felt told a good deal, but I had not found the most 
important subject of all, which would bind the whole essay 
together. The keystone should be the human family. 

Every photographer who has ever tried to express a thought 
in pictures knows the uneasy pain of hearing about tantalizing 
situations that would have been just right or so you imagine 
if you could have been there. Hearing wonderful stories is not 
enough for a photographer, and while the other man's job always 
seems easier than your own, the reporter can write a wonderful 
story built around what he hears. The photographer has to push 
his lens into focusing range somehow, and at just the right time. 
Nothing counts except the image he carries away on his frag- 
ments of film. The subject I was after was a subtle and elusive 
one. I could not cement my story together with just any family- 
no matter how photogenic the group might be. I had to find the 
right family one that would illustrate visually, and I hoped 
dramatically, the cleavage in a family torn apart by the war of 
ideas. 



35 NIM CHURL- JIN 

As I traveled, I began hearing of some new and humane de- 
velopments in the region of Mt. Chiri-san toward the south. The 
details I heard pointed toward a growing realization that just 
killing Communist guerrillas was no solution. There were close 
blood ties between many guerrillas roaming the mountains and 
the villagers living in the foothills just below them. And from 
reports I heard, it seemed that many of the converts were heartily 
disillusioned with the unfulfilled promises of the Communists. 
If only they could be induced to surrender and come back to 
our side, they could be rehabilitated into useful citizens. The 
important thing was to reclaim the youth. 

The village authorities tried in ingenious ways to induce the 
local boys to cross the invisible boundary and return to their 
own villages. Surprisingly modern under such primitive condi- 
tions, they used tape recordings of familiar songs, broadcast at 
twilight, hoping if the boys heard, it would make them homesick. 
Sometimes the village elders would speak into a tape or through 
a loudspeaker on a hilltop: "You know our names and our 
reputations. There will be no recriminations against you or your 
family. We have been feeding your family, and they urge you 
to come home. Come back to your homes, and bring your guns; 
we may need them." 

This was an area I must explore. I had an extra advantage, too: 
my favorite interpreter, with his Irish accent, worked in one 
of the police headquarters in the region. I knew I could count 
on him to help. I headed south to the southern slopes of Mt. 
Chiri-san and Captain Pak. 

Arriving one morning, I dropped in at police headquarters. 
I talked my problem over with Captain Pak, and he understood 
how eager I was to get below the surface. "We have a prisoner 
who surrendered to us just last night," he said. I was only mildly 
interested. Weary from the long trip, I thought to myself, this 
will be just another of those fascinating stories which I hear and 
cannot see. But Captain Pak urged me to question the prisoner. 

He brought in a bedraggled young man in his twenties. He 
was drab, pale, looked rather sick, and had a hacking cough. His 
name was Nim Churl- Jin. I asked Churl- Jin when he had joined 
the Communists and why he had surrendered. He had joined a 
Red Youth Group during the Communist occupation of his 
native province shortly before the big bypass of the UN forces. 



NIM CHURL- JIN 3 5 1 

When the Reds ordered the Youth Groups to take to the moun- 
tains, he went with the others and had been there for two years. 
He was plainly homesick, yet he acted a little afraid to go home. 
As he answered my questions, I could see he stood in particular 
awe of his older brother, who was the traditional head of the 
family, since the father had died. I drew a mental image of his 
brother ultraconservative, head of the local YMCA, as rightist 
as Churl- Jin had been leftist. A frequent candidate for village 
office, he was running for councilman when Churl- Jin spoiled 
his chances of election and ruined his social position in the com- 
munity by defecting to the Communists. The boy recalled only 
too vividly how hurt and angry his brother had been. But most 
of all, Churl- Jin was worried about his mother, who for two 
years had believed him dead. 

In common with so many others I had talked with, Churl- Jin 
had become increasingly disillusioned with the Communists. 
They had promised the farmers would get a better life, but 
rather than working toward this end, they had done just the 
opposite. Churl-Jin was repelled by their brutal treatment of 
the villagers. Instead of helping the peasants, as they had pledged, 
they had beaten them up, seized their food, and burned their 
houses. Churl- Jin drew himself up proudly and said, "I was not 
brought up that way." 

I thought his reply was magnificent! "This is it," I said to 
myself. "The conservative elder brother; the black-sheep younger 
brother who ran off with the Communists; and the mother who 
for two years had mourned her son as dead." 

I asked the police, "May I take Churl- Jin home to his mother?" 
They consented. Captain Pak would go with me as guide and 
interpreter. Correspondents do not generally drive around the 
countryside with ex-guerrillas in their jeeps. There were no 
rules for this, so I created some. I would check in at every major 
police station we passed, so the authorities would know every- 
thing was in good order. But I must extract a promise from them. 
No one should inform the Nim family we were on the way. The 
whole value of my mission depended on the element of surprise. 
I wanted to capture the expression on a mother's face when she 
is reunited with her son. The authorities promised, and the prom- 
ise was kept. 

Our two-day drive went fast because I had many questions to 



352 NIM CHURL- JIN 

ask Churl-Jin. Once he broke in with a curious remark. "I can 
hardly believe it," he said. "Here I am in a jeep with an American 
girl, and I can cough now!" 

I thought, "What on earth does he mean by 'I can cough 
now'?" Then suddenly I realized. He had spent two years in 
the mountains; he had had bad lungs, and sleeping in caves hadn't 
helped them any. The sound of a cough could give away a 
position. When he could not restrain his cough, the guerrillas 
beat him. 

I was interested in everything Churl-Jin had to tell me about 
his life in the mountains. His position had been ordnance officer, 
and his job was to make the ammunition they were able to steal 
fit their stolen guns and weapons. For example, they had looted 
a good supply of mortar shells long after they had run out of 
mortars. Churl- Jin would dismantle the mortar shell in itself a 
highly dangerous operationand utilize the mortar powder for 
the core of a homemade hand grenade. He had a very light hand 
at making a fuse. The grenade he assembled with sharp chips 
of glass and metal in a beer can. 

Again I marveled that the same world could contain a hydro- 
gen bomb and a hand grenade made from a beer can. 

We were approaching the region where Churl- Jin was born. 
I instructed Captain Pak that whatever I did, he should stay 
behind me at a discreet distance, within hearing range. He must 
listen carefully to everything that was said, but not interrupt 
with translations until we had a chance to get together later. 

We drove out of the mountains and down to the sea, A most 
beautiful smile broke out on Churl-Jin's face. I kept taking photo- 
graphs with my miniature camera over my shoulder toward the 
back of the jeep where he was sitting, hoping he would not 
notice me and he didn't. As we got closer to his village, I found 
he wasn't smiling any more. He was biting his lips to keep the 
tears back. 

We were in sight of his village. It was off the road, and no 
road led to it, only a footpath. In a flash, Churl- Jin was out of 
the jeep and trotting along the path to his village, and I was 
running after him taking pictures of his back as he ran. I saw 
that his house was the largest in the village; he had come from a 
good family. Before he went into his home, he stood at his own 



NIM CHURL- JIN 353 

gate and bowed in Oriental respect. I missed that picture, but I 
got the rest. 

He went inside the courtyard, with its strings of drying vege- 
tables. In the next few minutes, as though they had sprung out 
of the ground, friends and relatives flocked in to welcome him. 
Everyone was laughing and crying at once. His wife came up 
to him, and she said very simply, "My husband has come home." 
She handed him his two-year-old baby, whom he had never seen, 
and the baby boy cried as he was thrust into the arms of this 
strange father. Churl- Jin smiled a little at that. 

Then I learned, to my despair, that the most important mem- 
ber of the family, the mother, whom we had come so many miles 
to see, was not at home. She was visiting relatives in a village 
five miles away. She would not be home before nightfall. I said, 
"Can't we send for her? Can't we find her somehow?" 

"No," the others said. "No roads go there. She will be coming 
back over a footpath through the forest. There would be no 
way to find her." 

In desperation I said, ' 'Let's do something. Let's get into the 
jeep anyway and start. Maybe something will happen." We 
climbed into the jeep with Churl- Jin, and things began to happen. 

We had traveled only a few hundred yards when we saw a 
man ahead of us walking swiftly on foot. Churl- Jin leaped out 
of the jeep, and I jumped out too, camera in hand. I knew this 
must be the brother a fine-looking middle-aged man. He was 
shaking his fist in tears and anger, and saying to Churl-Jin, 
"What crime have you committed that you come back to us 
again? You ran away to the mountains; you went with the 
Communists for two years. You have hurt your country. What 
crimes you have committed!" And Churl-Jin hung his head 
before his brother and said, "My old crime has been wiped out 
by my surrender." 

I asked his brother to get into the jeep with us. I thought he 
might be able to help us find the mother. And as we drove, 
he talked to Churl- Jin, saying, "You must stay and help your 
country. This is a good country." And Churl- Jin repeated over 
and over, "Yes, I will, brother." 

We drove and we drove, a distance of much more than five 
miles. The sun was dipping close to the horizon, and there would 

[OVERLEAF] Ex-guerrilla Nim Churl-Jin is welcomed home by his 'wife 
and family and the baby he had never seen. 



356 NIM CHURL- JIN 

be only a short time before we would lose the light. 

In a whole lifetime of taking pictures, a photographer knows 
that the time will come when he will take one picture that seems 
the most important of all. And you hope that everything will 
be right. You hope the sun will be shining, and that you have a 
simple and significant and beautiful background. You pray there 
won't be any unwanted people staring into the lens. Most of all, 
you hope that the emotion you are trying to capture will be a 
real one, and will be reflected on the faces of the people you are 
photographing. 

I don't know what angel watched over me that day. If we had 
been three minutes earlier or three minutes later, we would have 
missed it. For a short distance the path curved away from the 
trees, across open rice paddies, and wound back into the forest 
again. Things happened so quickly that I can hardly reconstruct 
the sequence. Suddenly the jeep stopped. Churl- Jin was jump- 
ing out again, and running across a brook. I ran after him, but 
he was way ahead of me. He was up the opposite bank. And it 
took me forever, it seemed, to get up it, because it was very 
slippery and I was trying to keep my two cameras dry. 

Far ahead of us, coming through the rice fields on a narrow 
path, was a woman in white. She threw away her walking stick 
and started to run. By the time I got there, the two were in 
each other's arms, and she had her hands on his cheeks. She was 
saying, "It's a dream. It can't be true. My son is dead. My son 
has been dead for two years. It is only a dream." And Churl- Jin 
was saying, "No, Mother, it is not a dream. I am really Churl- 
Jin." And the two sank to the ground then, and she began rock- 
ing him back and forth in her arms. She was singing him a lullaby. 
Her son had come home. 




Churl-Jin and his mother are reunited. 



CHAPTER XXX 



MY 

MYSTERIOUS 
MALADY 



1YJ.Y MYSTERIOUS malady began so quietly I 
could hardly believe there was anything wrong. Nothing to see 
or feel except a slight dull ache in my left leg, which I noticed 
when I walked upstairs. This was not strong enough to dignify 
by the name of pain. Just strong enough to make me aware that 
my left leg was not properly sharing the duty of carrying 
around one photographer on shank's mare. I had the uneasy feel- 
ing that this was different from any ache I had ever had. Little 
did I dream this was the stealthy beginning of a lifetime siege 
during which I would have to add a new word to my vocabu- 
lary -"incurable." 

For half a year there were no further developments except 
that the dull ache moved about in a will-o'-the-wisp fashion to 
other parts of my leg and even to my arm. But it confined its 
wanderings to my left side. Then something small but very 
peculiar crept into my life. I discovered that after sitting for 
perhaps an hour, as at lunch, on rising from the table my first 
three steps were grotesque staggers. On the fourth step my 
ability to walk returned. I first noticed these difficulties at the 



MY MYSTERIOUS MALADY 359 

luncheon table in the Tokyo Press Club. I had already been in 
and out of Korea several rimes. 

I was highly embarrassed by these staggers and thought up 
little concealing devices such as dropping my gloves and retriev- 
ing them; with the smallest delaying action I could walk. I con- 
sulted with doctors I ran across, but my wisp of a symptom meant 
as little to them as it did to me. 

When it refused to disappear after I got back to the States, 
I started the weary, time-consuming round of specialists. I 
learned the long list of diseases I did not have. I did not have 
cancer, heart trouble, infantile paralysis or arthritis. I was amazed 
that I could have contracted anything when I thought of the 
near misses of two wars. I had always been arrogantly proud of 
my health and durability. Strong men might fall by the wayside, 
but I was "Maggie the Indestructible." 

A discerning friend suggested that I talk to Dr. Howard Rusk, 
Through our common interest in Korea I already knew Dr. 
Rusk, a greathearted man who had done so much with rehabilita- 
tion of polio victims, but it was a shock to think of myself in the 
same breath with a polio victim with all the crippling that term 
implied. (Later I was to find that severe crippling was a frequent 
conclusion to the malady I had.) 

Dr. Rusk took me to the staff neurologist, Dr. Morton Marks, 
to whom my malady was no mystery. 

"I am not going to give it a name," he said, "because someday 
you may see a very advanced case and that might discourage 
you. You can do a great deal to control your disease by thera- 
peutic physical exercises. From now on, exercise is more impor- 
tant to you than rest. If you skip one day, you'll fall back two. 
If you skip three days, you'll lose six." 

He called in the head physical therapist, Mr. Jack Hofkosh, 
to draw up a program of exercises "to help her save what she's 

got." 

Save what I've got! He must be thinking of ten other girls, 

I said to myself. 

Mr. Hofkosh was a short, powerful man, and his unusually 
large head was completely bald. Before long he became a kind 
of archangel to me, and during all the years of fighting against 
the creeping rigidity which was afflicting me so strangely, I 



360 MY MYSTERIOUS MALADY 

came to revere each feather of his invisible wings, but on that 
day of our first meeting I treated him as crossly as though I 
were a petulant child. 

"Crumpling pages of newspaper into a ball, using all four 
fingers and the thumb in proper juxtaposition, would be excellent 
to strengthen the fingers of that left hand," he said. "And for 
the wrist nothing could be better than mixing up a cake batter. 
Soon you will be able to mix a cake with your left hand." 

"I don't make cake," I snapped. 

He carried the idea further by explaining the benefit to the 
wrists which would come if I would twist and squeeze out wet 
clothes under the warm tap. 

"I don't wash my own clothes," I scolded him foolishly. 

And then a few weeks later something happened that fright- 
ened me out of all that nonsense. I found I was losing my ability 
to write on the typewriter, even my own electric typewriter 
with its featherlight touch. My fingers were becoming far too 
stiff to reach the keys properly. The letter "C," for instance, 
seemed to have removed itself by miles from any position that 
I could reach. I was working on this book. Dictating is no good 
to me. When it comes to writing, my flow of thoughts always 
comes best on the typewriter. Maybe I won't even be able to 
finish my book, I thought with alarm. Maybe I should be less 
haughty about the benefits to be gained from squeezing wet 
clothes. Maybe I had better get back to that little man with his 
high-polished dome and master whatever exercises he wants to 
teach me. 

From then on everything became an exercise. A Life assign- 
ment to the Colorado Dust Bowl, which included airplane photo- 
graphs, meant that instead of setting the clock for 4:00 A.M. so 
as to meet the pilot on the airstrip just before sunrise, I set the 
alarm for 3:30 A.M. so that I would have time to crumple news- 
papers. When I left the tourist room or the motel where I had 
spent the night, the floor would be nearly hidden in the rising 
piles of crumpled newspapers squeezed into popcorn-ball size. 
If I traveled by myself on an airplane, train or bus, when I dis- 
embarked, the space under the seat overflowed with popcorn 
balls. Any well-appointed hotel bathroom was a clear invitation 
from the management to wring out all the beautiful turkish 



MY MYSTERIOUS MALADY 361 

towels under the warm-water tap. The bath mat was kst. When 
my camera cases were all packed and my hastily assembled suit- 
cases were bulging, I called for the bellhop, squeezed out the 
mat, plopped it into the bathtub, and out I went. 

At home a session of watching television was an opportunity 
to practice precision movements with the left hand. I used colored 
crayons to fill in patterns in children's outline drawings. 

Those child's colored crayons certainly earned their way. Soon 
a fair amount of control came back to the fingers of my left 
hand. No longer was the letter "C" unreachable. I took special 
pride in that left hand. I felt as though I had made it myself, and 
I was able to go on writing. The feeling of continuity this gave 
me helped to sustain me during the difficult years that lay just 
ahead. 

Of greatest help to my strength of spirit was the fact that I 
could continue to work to some extent. Work to me is a sacred 
thing, and while writing the book was important to me, photog- 
raphy is my profession. My great dread in connection with my 
illness was that people would try to spare me too much. My 
editors were wonderfully understanding of this. When I told 
them I was under doctor's orders to walk four miles a day, they 
shuddered at the thought but gave me assignments where I could 
walk, run, climb, fly. 

One of the assignments carried me to a part of British Colum- 
bia edging the Yukon, and over some of the wildest mountain 
ranges in the world. My superb pilot, who knew all the savage 
wind streams, flew me just above the icy crusts of glaciers, many 
of them unmapped and unnamed, which were wrinkled like the 
skin of an old elephant, and gray with the clots of boulders they 
carried. My bedroll, and a plywood door which served as a bed, 
traveled with me in the back of the plane. Before nightfall we 
could always find a lake with fish in it to land on, and if we were 
lucky, we would spot some tiny encampment of prospectors 
searching for uranium, surveying in the modern way with heli- 
copters. There I could have a tent to sleep in if I wanted it, but 
sleeping outside under the silhouettes of perfectly symmetrical 
firs pointing to the stars was fine indeed. 

It thrilled me that I could still accommodate myself so readily 
to sleeping on the ground, and I found it reassuring that I could 



362 MY MYSTERIOUS MALADY 

also work easily in the air, swinging my heavy but beloved air- 
plane cameras that seemed so much a part of me. Each step on 
earth was becoming very labored now, and I could not hide 
from myself the certain knowledge that each year left me a little 
bit worse than it found me. 

Not knowing the name of my ailment, I dramatized it, told 
myself I had something very rare. My doctors need not have been 
so cautious about naming it. When I did learn that I had Parkin- 
son's disease, the name could not frighten me because I did not 
know what in the world it was. Then, slowly, an old memory 
came back: of a dinner meeting of photographers perhaps eight 
or ten years earlier. Captain Steichen spoke with tears on his 
cheeks of the illness of the "dean of photographers," the great 
Edward Weston, who had Parkinson's disease. I can still hear 
the break in Steichen's voice. "A terrible disease . . . you can't 
work because you can't hold things . . . you grow stiffer and 
stiff er each year until you are a walking prison ... no known 
cure. . . " 

Was this a photographer's occupational disease? Then I learned 
that Eugene O'Neill had it. So, it was an author's malady! Soon 
I was to discover there were many illustrious members of the 
club in many fields: Justice Burton, who had to resign from the 
Supreme Court because of the progression of his case; Alexander 
Ruthven, retired president of the University of Michigan. Sister 
Kenny was a severe sufferer, and I think it highly likely that her 
experience with her own illness, and the benefits physical therapy 
had brought her, had a lot to do with her approach to polio. The 
thing that interested me most was not the fame and eminence 
of some Parkinsonians, but that they are "struck down," in many 
cases, when they are at a peak in their productive life people 
who are creative and active, people who do not baby themselves, 
the never-had-a-sick-day-in-my-lif e type. 

But the discovery that astonished me most was to learn that, 
far from being a rare malady, it could hardly be less exclusive. 
We don't know how many people have it, but they are in the 
hundreds of thousands. Its existence has been known for more 
than four thousand years (Parkinsonism is the shaking palsy of 
the Bible), and it has been named and documented for more than 
a century. 



MY MYSTERIOUS MALADY 363 

The disease's odd name comes from Dr. James Parkinson, a 
paleontologist as well as a practicing physician. In 1817, he pub- 
lished his observations of six victims of the disease, noting each 
weird and ugly symptom. This chronicle has become a medical 
classic, and yet in the 128 years from Dr. Parkinson's death to 
the onset of my own siege, little more had been learned. 

Parkinsonism does not affect the thinking part of the brain but 
the brain's motor centers which coordinate voluntary move- 
ments. It is Hydra-headed. Push it down in one spot and it rears 
up in another. It is easy to list its two main symptoms: rigidity 
and tremor. But to know what Parkinsonism is you must know 
the surprise of finding yourself standing in a sloping position as 
though you were trying to impersonate the leaning tower of 
Pisa. You must know the bewilderment of finding yourself 
prisoner in your own clothes closet, unable to back out of it. 
You must experience the awkwardness of trying to turn around 
in your own kitchen eleven cautious little steps when one swift 
pivot used to do the job. You must live with the near panic 
which you face when you have to walk into a roomful of people, 
and the uneasiness of the questions you ask yourself: Do I just 
imagine that I can't seem to turn over in bed any more? How 
will I get my feet moving when they want to stay glued to the 
floor? How will I disengage myself from a group of people and 
step away if they're all around me? How will I keep from 
knocking them down? What can I do with my hands when I'm 
only standing still? How will I get my meat cut up? What a 
waste of good steak! You feel so clumsy if you cut it yourself 
and so conspicuous if you have someone do it for you. How did 
I look this time? Did I get through it all right? Did people nonce 
anything wrong? 

Did people notice anything wrong? Of course they did. I 
don't know why with Parkinsonism there is this overwhelming 
compulsion toward secrecy. A wise woman doctor who had 
known me for many years said to me, "Your friends won't stop 
loving you if they learn you are ill. Perhaps it will have the 
opposite effect and they will understand and love you more. I 
think you are adding greatly to your difficulties in your efforts 
for concealment."' 

I knew this was good advice, and I wish I had been able to 



364 MY MYSTERIOUS MALADY 

take it. But that was for others. I was the exception. Nobody 
must know I was anything but a paragon of health. 

If I could give only one message after sifting down this experi- 
ence, it would be to urge others to banish the secrecy. I see now 
how futile are the obsessive efforts to keep the illness hidden. In 
most cases it isn't secret anyway, and it is the most harmful pos- 
sible course to follow, because it robs you of the release of talk- 
ing it over. I found that many of my friends knew all about it 
in some cases they knew more than I. They were distressed most 
by not knowing how to help me. I was surrounded by a wall 
of loving silence which no one dared to break through. 

Parkinsonism is a strange malady. It works its way into all 
paths of life, into all that is graceful and human and outgiving 
in our lives, and poisons it all. 

I often thought with thankfulness that if I had to be saddled 
with some kind of ailment, I was fortunate that it was something 
where my own efforts could help. I was amazed to see what the 
human body will do for you if you insist. Having to plug away 
at some exercise and finding I could make small advances gave 
me the feeling I was still captain of my ship an attitude which 
is very important to me. 

I remember vividly the pursuit of my left pocket. I had made 
the melancholy discovery that I could not put my left hand in 
the pocket and place or retrieve an object there. The attempt 
to carry through this minor action, which most people do with- 
out thinking, brought about such rigidity that getting into that 
pocket was totally beyond me. So I began studying my right 
hand, the well hand. I had never realized what a complex series 
of movements are required to put a hand in a pocket, I plotted 
out the little sequence the right hand made and tried to teach it 
to the left. Then this project got lost in the larger campaign to 
get the arm swinging. Some time later, to my delighted surprise, 
I found that without thinking I had simply put my left hand 
in my pocket and pulled something out. This was an achieve- 
ment I wore like an invisible jewel. 

I never would have believed there could be such towering 
difficulties in relearning to walk something we have all done so 
easily from childhood. I had not realized that I was trying to 



MY MYSTERIOUS MALADY 365 

compress into a few years something it took the human race 
millions of years to learn. 

"Why is it so difficult?" I asked the doctor. 

He gave me an interesting answer. "It is the newest skill along 
with speech that man acquired in the evolutionary process. It is 
also one of the most complex." 

To keep your balance, your arms must swing. Mine had grown 
so rigid they refused to do so naturally. I had to learn to pick 
up my feet instead of shuffling along like an ill-shod ice skater, 
as Parkinson victims tend to do. I had to try to keep a straight 
back. Otherwise that chest, which seemed to be permanently 
bound in bands of steel, would contract even more and make me 
grotesquely round-shouldered, further destroying my precarious 
balance. I had to learn to toe out and step with my feet somewhat 
apart. This Mr. Hof kosh insisted on above everything else. 

"You will need that broad base for balance; otherwise you 
will stumble and fall." 

Mr. Hofkosh said, "Walk four miles every day. Walk at least 
four. Walk all day if you can. And remember all these things, 
and follow an imaginary line down the road, making sure you 
are putting your feet on opposite sides of it." 

And so I walked. Every day, in snow or rain or sun, I walked 
and walked, and point by point I tried to embed all the separate 
items deep in my mind. I said to myself, see that little bush 
ahead? I am going to swing my left arm until we reach it. I am 
going to think only about straightening my back until we come 
to the first mailbox. I am going to concentrate on heel-toe, heel- 
toe till we get around the next bend in the road. I am going to 
step wide over that imaginary line and acquire the Hofkoshian 
pace. 

Only intellectually could I recall that walking can be a pleas- 
ure. In the all-absorbing effort of trying to perform these inter- 
lacing movements, all rhythm and joy of motion were blotted 
out. But very occasionally at the end of one well-walked mile, 
and at a certain spot on a gently sloping wooded road, where 
there were lichen-covered rocks, cool ferns and the strong base 
of a tall tree, the awkwardness faded away and I seemed to glide 
into that interlocking mesh in which most people walk naturally, 
and for a short time as though it had been out on loan the 



366 MY MYSTERIOUS MALADY 

consciousness of joy in movement was restored to me. During 
this brief respite walking again became a happy thing. 

Strangely, as I look back, this was not an unhappy period. The 
discovery that I could do so much by my own will and concen- 
tration was part of a deepened awareness that was making its own 
new pattern, and the fact that I could continue to work on my 
book was a great reassurance to me and helped give me a sense 
of purpose in my life. 

I managed to avoid the great crashing falls which are the curse 
of most Parkinsonians (although I had some close calls), and I 
am sure that the steadiness I acquired in all my walking is respon- 
sible. The terrifying falls come about when a Parkinsonian, 
unbalanced as he is and unable to walk with control, finds him- 
self running forward, taking shorter and shorter steps, caught 
in an acceleration pattern which he cannot escape. He is thrown 
helplessly forward, and often the unhappy sufferer completely 
lacks the muscle control to pick himself up again. He may lie 
where he has fallen until someone finds him. 

Nor was I afflicted with the terrible tremor which plagues so 
many, and I believe my determination not to have it helped me 
fend it off. I was resolved not to let even the feeling of it get 
into my mind, and when I noticed even the slightest trembling, I 
stopped whatever I was doing and took exercises immediately 
to loosen the fingers and the shoulders. I knew I could not banish 
it forever, because I realized only too well I was on an escalator 
which was moving down while I was trying to run up. 

Balance is a mysterious and highly personal thing. If my cat 
unexpectedly brushed the back of my legs with his feathery tail, 
it was enough to send me soaring off to the left side or to the 
right, whichever way my internal Tower of Pisa was leaning 
that day. Due to the benefits of the therapy, I could usually re- 
cover my balance. Even in an emergency, such as tripping badly, 
where I had to save myself quickly, I found if I could just raise 
one arm throw it over my head as casually as though calling 
"Hi" to a passerby I could stop that particular fall. Immediately 
I would turn my attention to a few balancing exercises to re- 
inforce myself against the next threat of falling. As I walked into 
a room, I surveyed it much as a pilot in a single-engine plane 
surveys the ground beneath to spot a little landing strip just in 



MY MYSTERIOUS MALADY 367 

case of emergency. I picked something that would break my 
fall, in case I did fall. 

Through all this I was writing on water, and well I knew it. I 
could not shout down the fact that Parkinsonism is a progressive 
disease. In spite of everything Mr. Hofkosh taught me, and 
everything I tried to do for myself, rime moved on and Parkin- 
sonism took its toll. When the relentless, unearthly pull which 
erases all control of balance "forward compulsion" started in 
earnest, this was something that could not be dismissed by a 
wave of the hand. This was the face of the enemy. 

In the early spring of 1958 I went South to give a lecture in 
Asheville, North Carolina, and decided to go to the nearby beau- 
tiful Pisgah National Forest to write and walk. I had expected 
to find the whole mountaintop riotous with rhododendrons, but 
I was too early for this. The charming inn was lost in the rain 
clouds and I was the only guest. Everybody else knew better 
than to come at this time of the year. The weather never 
changed. It was uniformly drizzly, soggy, damp and dark. One 
thing kept me there. 

There was a road winding its tortuous way through the moun- 
tain peaks. Down the middle of that road ran a white line stretch- 
ing from me to infinity. The empty road was an elongated, fog- 
bound gymnasium in which to practice the Hofkosh pace. Every 
day I did my four miles or more, straddling that white line. It 
was hard to believe there were great precipices plunging down- 
ward just beyond the shoulders of the road, or that one of Amer- 
ica's proudest views, a sweeping panorama of the Great Smokies, 
lay beyond, blotted from sight by the impenetrable mist. At any 
time I wished, I could stop to bend over to touch my toes or do 
deep knee bends, in total privacy. At the end of my morning 
stint a great fire would be blazing away in my cosy room at 
the inn. After lunch I would add a few pages to my book and 
go outside again to follow the white line. 

"Keep your knees up," I could all but hear Mr. Hofkosh say- 
ing. This was so arduous that to keep myself at it, I chanted a 
syllable at a time: Hof-kosh, Hof-kosh, with each rising knee. 

If anyone had asked me, and frequently I asked myself, why 
I did all this, I would have been hard put to find an answer. I 
suppose in part it was a carry-over from my professional work, 



368 MY MYSTERIOUS MALADY 

where the highest praise my editors could give me was "Maggie 
won't take no for an answer." 

Well-meaning people frequently advise that you must learn 
to accept your illness. My conviction was just the opposite. Try 
to take a realistic approach, yes. But accept an illness, never. Lay- 
ing down my weapons in the middle of the fight was unthink- 
able. And there was, too, another reason, which went much 
deeper. Somehow I had the unshakable faith that if I could just 
manage to hang on and keep myself in good shape, somewhere a 
door would open. 

And that door did indeed open. 



3 6 9 



CHAPTER XXXI 



GIFT 

OF SCIENCE 



I HE DOOR was opened by a very young and 
very gifted surgeon who quite by chance discovered the key to a 
cure for Parkinsonism. Dr. Irving S. Cooper was performing a 
brain operation on a patient who had Parkinsonism. He acci- 
dentally tore a small artery which nourished the rebellious nerves 
whose malfunctioning controlled Parkinsonism. After the opera- 
tion, to his astonishment, the patient's terrible tremor and rigid- 
ity had dramatically ceased. He had an important clue, and for- 
tunately he had the imagination to build on what he had found 
and the skill and inventiveness to use it. 

That he looked a little like a Greek god, with the evenly 
sculptured waves in his blond hair and his impressive height, 
made him no less of a surgeon. He was still under thirty in 1952 
when he began experimenting with a radically, magically new 
operating procedure. Like all great things, his procedure was 
simple. He drilled a hole in the skull the size of a dime. Check- 
ing everything on X-rays as he worked, he probed for precisely 
that spot which was responsible for the patient's difficulties. The 
more conservative members of the medical world were skeptical. 
Gaining recognition was an uphill road for him. 

Getting to him was an uphill climb, also, for many of his pa- 
tients, as I discovered when I tried to get some precise informa- 
tion about him and about the operation. I found it difficult to get 
a dispassionate or objective answer. Also, I was bucking the old 
school of thought about Parkinson's: you might as well wait for 



370 GIFT OF SCIENCE 

surgery until you are old, because then the disease will be so ad- 
vanced anything will be an improvement. That, to me, was al- 
most immoral. My idea was just the opposite. Don't wait pas- 
sively on the sidelines for a shambling old age. Go into it as 
young as possible. Bring all the assets you have, and play to win! 

When I received my prized appointment for the operation, I 
discovered there was an eight-weeks waiting list, with some can- 
didates coming from The Netherlands and other parts of Eu- 
rope, but I did not mind the wait. I went right back to my 
exercises and redoubled my efforts. I was determined to bring 
to the operation the strongest body I could make. 

This was the first operation of my life. That is, the first in 
which I was the patient. Of course, I had photographed opera- 
tions during the war, but being the patient is quite different from 
being the photographer. 

It had never occurred to me that I would not go to my own 
operation under my own steam, and I was rather startled on that 
great morning to find I was flat on my back, flat on something 
with wheels, and could see only the ceiling which was rushing 
over me, or so it seemed, at breakneck speed. Here, as the long, 
narrow, cream-colored corridor ceiling swept on relentlessly, I 
had a childish urge to stretch out my arms and catch something 
that would slow me down so I could have a minute to breathe 
and think. And then I said to myself, There is nothing more to 
think about. I've thought it through and made the decision. This 
is the most important step toward my goal. I'm in it now. This 
is it. 

The ceilings had stopped in their race. As I lay there quietly 
waiting, the X-ray technician came and stood at my side. He was 
interested in my travels and asked, as so many people do, u To 
what distant part of the globe are you going next?" 

I was thinking of another "globe," much smaller, and of the 
very personal and remarkable journey that was about to be con- 
ducted inside it. This would be the shortest journey of my life- 
it could be measured in inches; its importance was without meas- 
ure. I realized this was an assignment, the greatest in my life, 
and to accomplish it sucessfully I must be willing to travel any- 
where and must try to learn everything. As long as I thought of 
it in the context of my work, it held no fears for me. 



GIFT OF SCIENCE 371 

There would be no pain; only an occasional feeling of pres- 
sure. I was very glad that as part of the technique I would be 
kept conscious during the operation. This was to help the doctors 
find the precise trouble spot. The doctors kept questioning me 
and asked me repeatedly to do special things. 

"Maggie, raise your arm. Clench your fist. Stretch out your 
fingers." 

Another doctor said, "Peggy, squeeze my hand as hard as you 
can. Squeeze my hand tight." 

I never dreamed so much hand holding could go on during an 
operation. 

It was reassuring that the doctors had learned my various nick- 
names and a comfort as the operation progressed to hear them 
speaking to me. At one point, Dr. Cooper said, "Maggie, can 
you hear me?" When I said yes, he said, "We'll be right here, 
but we're taking a few minutes out to take pictures." And I 
thought, take pictures! What am I doing in here? I should be 
out there helping them! 

I do not know what phase the operation had reached when I 
was conscious of a remarkable feeling. I knew the doctors were 
doing precisely the right thing. I could tell by the kind of inner 
harmony and almost ecstasy I felt. In my mind I was saying, 
"Keep at it; keep at it. Go right at it. Keep on digging. Get out 
all the Parkinsonism. Get it all out!" 

My instinct must have been right, because within a very short 
time Dr. Cooper was saying, "Maggie, everything is fine. It 
turned out beautifully." 

It was about this time that I wanted terribly to take a deep 
breath. I remember no point in my life when I had felt the need 
for such a deep breath and felt it so positively. I was floating in 
a kind of half dreamworld. I was so lightly suspended there, I 
hesitated to move in the tiniest degree, and in the meantime the 
breath seemed to hover close like a wind-filled sail, like a bird's 
wing. Now I knew it was meant for me. I accepted the gift of 
breath and inhaled deeply, much, I suppose, as a baby does who 
needs just such a breath to be launched into the outside world. 

The next few weeks were a continuous Christmas. Every sec- 
ond or third day brought its own magic gift. First came that 
long-awaited arm swing. My left arm swung and swung and 



Dr. Irving S. 
Parkinsonism. 



I Cooper, brilliant brain surgeon who developed a new method for treating 
n. 




In the background is Dr. Manuel Riklan, co-ordinator of neurologic surgery. 
[ALFRED EISENSTAEDT, Life] 




374 GIFT OF SCIENCE 

swung from the socket as though it was about to take off on its 
own, like an animated baseball bat. I would have found its new 
independence alarming had I not been sure I could teach it that 
it belonged to me. Next my back began to straighten up bit by bit 
as the chest began to free itself from the iron-stiff muscle bands 
that had been forcing me to stoop for so long. Then came a 
morning when I was given, as usual, a fresh hospital gown to 
put on, and I discovered that without even thinking I had tied 
the little laces at the back of my neck. A friend came to pick me 
up at the hospital and parked her station wagon near the en- 
trance. Before I realized what I was doing, I found myself sit- 
ting in the front seat, surrounded by the glass and metal of the 
car. I had jumped in myself. In the old days it used to take a 
couple of strong-armed friends, no doubt wishing fervently for 
a derrick. 

The most blessed gift of all was a modest inconspicuous one 
which arrived just two days after the operation. I was talking 
with someone and my hands were under a light blanket in my 
lap. The left hand began thrashing about as though it were try- 
ing to scrabble upward to the light. "What on earth is going on 
here?" I thought. I threw off the blanket and realized I was mak- 
ing a gesture as I talked, with my left hand! A gesture! A gesture 
is not something you will yourself to make. It comes from the 
heart. To me, it was a bridge from myself to that warm living 
world I had wanted so deeply to reenter. Now the way was open. 

Not all the gifts were pleasant ones. Some were unwanted, 
puzzling, and had to be disciplined away. First there was the in- 
visible magnet which seemed to be dragging my hands and wrists 
down to earth. My foot had somehow picked up the iron lid of 
a manhole which could not be shaken loose. A floating chunk of 
fog the size of a small suitcase seemed to be blocking my arms 
in any movement I wanted to make. My hands were out of focus 
somehow, so that if I reached for the bed rail, I missed and fell 
back in bed, and I could feel my fingers getting sucked into the 
field of the invisible magnet with its powerful downward pull. I 
remember lying there in my criblike hospital bed, trying to fight 
off my grief and fright. 

My long training in physical therapy saved me from giving in 
to despair and helped me to approach the problem. I tried to 
analyze the errors. I was undershooting the mark by two inches. 



GIFT OF SCIENCE 375 

I practiced raising my aim trying to reach the bed rail, a towel 
rack, any handy targetmaking allowance for that out-of-focus 
two inches, and each time I succeeded, I tried to get the feeling 
of the reach into my memory. As always, the accomplishment of 
something on your own is a source of confidence and strength. 
And so it was now, when correcting the faulty arm reach. 

In the meantime, the slab of fog had built itself into a real 
roadblock. Hoping to be able to use my typewriter during re- 
cuperation, I had brought it to the hospital. Now the fog was 
barricading my fingers, and it was physically impossible to reach 
the keyboard. I tried and tried. This was a stunning disappoint- 
ment. I never dreamed anything could happen to upset my rela- 
tionship with my typewriter, especially since I had already 
fought through the long siege of retraining the fingers once be- 
fore, early in my illness. 

Worst of all, I couldn't understand what was happening. 
When I found I simply couldn't pierce my way through the in- 
visible but nonetheless real blockade, I tried to coax my arms to 
leap over it, making big springing motions, curving up and try- 
ing to zoom down on the other side in a desperate attempt to 
reach the keyboard. All this seemed to hold something deeper 
than pain a sort of irritable, ragged-nerve feeling that defied 
analysis. 

I remembered that during the worst of my illness, when I 
had had some particularly great difficulty trying to learn to move 
that rigid left shoulder, or relax that always stubborn wrist, if I 
kept hammering at it, the next day would bring its reward in 
increased serenity and the beginning of learning. So I kept bang- 
ing away, using my whole arm like a ramrod, thrusting down to 
punch the keys with all my strength. Once on the keyboard, the 
fingers couldn't seem to stay where they belonged but kept fall- 
ing off the keys, slipping in between and getting tangled up in 
any awkward spot. Why was this so extraordinarily difficult? 
Was it possible that my facility on the typewriter did not cross 
the great divide with me? Or, even more eerie thought, could I 
really be trailing the fingers of one hand in the past? Could it 
be that only one hand had made the successful crossing while 
the other remained in what I was fast learning to think of as 
B.C.-Before Cooper? 

The next day I was terribly jangled and nervous. A therapist 



GIFT OF SCIENCE 



brought me a typewriter exercise book with the simplest com- 
binations of letters: a-n, a-s, a-t. I made a stab at these and found 
that things were somewhat easier. And a few days later I woke 
up feeling especially clear-headed and fine. I placed my electric 
portable at the foot of my bed and plugged in the wire but left 
the machine unopened. In the afternoon, I took off the case, in- 
serted a sheet of paper and began to type. It was as though two 
out-of-focus prints slid into register; die keyboard had meaning 
once more. A few sentences, and I could tell my fingers remem- 
bered old movements, and that was enough for now. 

Much later, when the dreamlike state of the operation was 
dispelled and I was trying to recapture whatever I could of 
evanescent memories of the operation itself, I realized that they 
always appeared against the same shadowy background: the edge 
of a wood with lichen-covered rocks and dark ferns, and the 
strong base of a tall tree which grew out of an island in the 
middle of the road. Against this all the images floated. Why, I 
wondered, did I see everything against this particular back- 
ground? Then I remembered the little roadside things I had 
noticed in the weary months of the long walks. And I recalled 
the reward I sometimes received if I managed to struggle through 
that first hardest mile with any small semblance of coordination 
that fleeting interlude with its soft reminder that walking is not 
always an obstacle race but can be a bright and light-footed 
thing. I feel sure it was no accident that during the peak of the 
operation, when I was being set free, my release came against 
this background. 

After a few weeks of therapy, Dr. Cooper sent me to Dr. 
Howard Rusk's Rehabilitation Institute, my old training ground, 
to continue my physical therapy. My return to the Institute was 
like a welcoming parade up Broadway. As I walked along the 
corridor, swift and sure, with easy balance, heel-toe, heel-toe, 
and those arms swinging like a metronome, people began to run 
after me: the therapists, the doctors, patients who knew me, the 
elevator boys. They could hardly believe I was the same person. 
A doctor walking in back of me said, "How does it feel now?" 

"Delicious," I said. "As though I had strawberry ice cream on 
the top of my head, melting and pouring down! " 

Outside my window was a field of rubble left after the demo- 



GIFT OF SCIENCE 377 



lition of a building. That's my kind of terrain, I said to myself. 
Just the kind of shifting ground a photographer must be able to 
keep balance on with ease. Then other skills the photographer 
requires came crowding back into my mind. I began to practice 
loading cameras and working to improve the small precision 
movements. Just being able to walk down a corridor wasn't 
enough. 

So next I worked on "ambulation." I practiced running and 
stopping short, and making quick turns on shouted commands. 
Then I went outside with a therapist and walked through crowds 
in the street to be sure my new-gained balance was firm enough 
to stand up against the jostling of other people. It was. Then I 
ran up the rubble pile in a strong wind. 

This had been a long road from the place where I lost my bal- 
ance from the touch of my cat's tail, I had learned to walk 
again; I had learned to run again. What was going on inside me 
during the recuperation was more than a healing. It is hard to 
describe. It was a kind of drawing together of loose strands in 
my own life, and feeling closer to the lives of others, probing 
perhaps a little deeper than, before, noticing more, caring more. 
Dear "Eisie" came to see me at the Institute Alfred Eisen- 
Staedt, gentle and gifted photographer and my close colleague 
since the very first days of Life magazine. Finding me so happy 
and active with my new muscle-building program, Eisie put on 
that cloak of invisibility he wears when scouting out pictures and 
followed me through daily "classes," taking beautiful pictures of 
my rehabilitation activities. This sprang out of Eisie's generosity 
in wanting to give me a personal record of these days of my life. 
The idea grew, and the collaboration became a Life assign- 
ment, with us two photographers working as a photographer- 
writer team. Eisie, having known me so well over a period of so 
many years, was quick to sense how deep this experience had 
gone with me, and how interested I had become in trying to 
learn and understand the human side of it all. He encouraged 
me very much in this. With so many people facing the same 
battle I had fought, Eisie was convinced my story could help 

others. 

The days of concealment were over. If I had learned anything 




PHOTOGRAPHS BY AL- 
FRED ElSENSTAEDT, Ltf 6 



Learning to skip again. 



Exercising with physical therapist 
Jack Hofkosh to develop balance. 



Starting off on the 
daily walk 'with my 
cat Sita. 




380 GIFT OF SCIENCE 

from my experience that would help others, I was eager to share 
the knowledge I had gained. 

When Dr. Cooper invited me to watch an operation like the 
one performed on me, I accepted eagerly. I had become so 
deeply interested in all this that I was eager to learn as much as 
I could absorb. Eisie went with me to see and photograph Dr. 
Cooper's operation. On the way, we talked about it. 

"It isn't at all the way some people imagine an operation," I 
told him. "This is something quite different. It's the keystone of 
the whole treatment and is a dramatic and beautiful thing." I 
knew that Eisie, with his warm sensitivity, would be deeply 
stirred by the beautiful hands-Dr. Cooper's knowing hands at 
work, and the hand of the patient. 

To be present during the operation was breathtaking both for 
Eisie and for me. For me, it closed the circle of the experience. 
As we left the operating room, I took one last backward glance. 
In this small room, the future years of my life were handed back 
to me. Now the world outside was beating at my windows: a 
thousand things to take pictures of, write about, learn about. 

In this experience of mine, there was one continuing marvel: 
the precision timing running through it all. The ailment which 
was draining all the good out of my life is one of the world's 
oldest diseases. Against the somber background of this venerable 
malady, with its span of four millenniums or more, by great 
good fortune, I am born in the right century, in the right decade, 
and even in the right group of months to profit from the swift- 
running advance of modern medical science. My greatest need 
comes at that pinpoint in time when I can reap the benefits of 
science and be made whole. By some special graciousness of fate 
I am deposited as all good photographers like to be in the right 
place at the right time. 



With my dear friend and talented colleague, Alfred Eisenstaedt. 



POSTSCRIPT 



I HIS BOOK has been my constant companion 
for the last ten years through sickness, surgery and health. I did 
not go so far as to carry it to the operating table, but it was a 
comfort to have it under the same roof. It gave me a sense of 
continuity in my life to know the manuscript was there in its 
unfinished roughness, and as soon as I was able, I would be back 
to it adding a few words a day, a few sentences a week, more 
as I grew stronger. And now, I cannot put away my typewriter 
without mentioning my deep happiness and continued surprise 
that an experience which I thought fit only for the wastebasket 
could be plucked out and used constructively. 

"What happens next?" is a natural question. A Parkinsonian 
would add another: "Did you go back for a second operation?" 
The answer is yes. The first operation treated only my left side. 
Two years later, I went back to have the untreated side taken 
care of. The second operation was a triumph of surgery. It did 
all the right things, and it has held well. 

Keeping up my daily exercises faithfully has helped greatly. 
The neighborhood children have also helped greatly by teaching 
me games everything from jacks to badminton. Learning a game 
mastered so easily in childhood was for me the very symbol of 
returning health. 

Vacationtime I spend at Martha's Vineyard at a lovely summer 
school in a pine grove on a bluff overlooking the Sound. The 



POSTSCRIPT 383 

School of Creative Arts was organized by a dancer, Kathleen 
Hinni, who has great gifts for inspiring creativity in children. 
One of the arts is dance, and its special value for me is that the 
basic exercises for body control in dancing are similar to those 
of physical therapy and much more fun. And when I find my- 
self charging down the studio with several dozen small girls, I 
have to coordinate and balance or else! 

A few months after the second operation, I went back to the 
hospital for a checkup. In the midst of the routine tests for co- 
ordination, I applied a test of my own that was not entirely 
routine. I whipped my jumping rope out of my handbag and 
gave a little demonstration. Through the sphere of the moving 
rope, I could hear the surprised exclamations of my delighted 
doctors. This gave me special pleasure, as there was a time, not 
so far back, when mastery of a jumping rope seemed more im- 
possible of attainment than a trip to the moon. 

Not long ago, I did have moon plans. When the possibilities 
of space travel were more problematic than today, I asked for 
and received the Life assignment to the moon, as soon as we 
could get transportation. My dearest hope was thiat the science 
of space travel would advance enough in our lifetimes to enable 
me to carry out the assignment. Perhaps knowing how to skip 
rope does not qualify me for the moon, but short of that ... at 
the present gallop of science . . . who knows? 




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